Salsa > Salsa Study in Latin America?

Discussion in 'Salsa' started by HailMary, Jan 20, 2006.

  1. HailMary

    HailMary New Member

    The link that salsera posted (thanks!) is the school that I'm considering studying at. It's in Guatemala.
    I know, I know, it's not Cuba and it's not PR but it's affordable and might be well-taught. I won't do it, of course, if it's no good, but maybe I could email them and ask them what style of salsa they teach? What do you guys think? Any ideas what I should ask them?
  2. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    You could ask them how long their instructors have been dancing for, where they learned, if any of them have danced at any of the salsa congresses, etc., etc....

    There really is no way to know for sure without being there or, at the least, seeing a clip. Depending how connected they are to a wider salsa scene (vs. "oh, we taught ourselves from a videotape"), might be just fine.
  3. OneCentSalsero

    OneCentSalsero New Member

    Unless your going to PR why bother spending the airfare, hotel, meals etc just to learn something that might not be the style your looking for. Just airfare alone can pay for 3-4 group lessons a week for a whole month in CA (im guessing)
  4. Sorry, guys, that I posted a commercial link for HailMary, had not thought about that.

    I looked at your link. I do not know this school but I have a strong feeling that this would be a waste of time and money. And I really do not think that 10$ per hour is a bargain price. Maybe those lessons are not even worth 1$. I agree with Sagitta. Your money is much better invested in lessons in California. Most or all salsa teachers in CA might be better than this school.

    Why do I have this feeling? They give no references about where they learned. I have a feeling they learn from each other. This is the only school in Antigua, that tells me that the whole salsa craze has passed them by. My feeling tells me that you already know what they can teach you. So every dollar might be wasted.

    Another thing is that I really cannot recommend Antigua. I spent 2 days there and was constantly warned by the locals that we (my girlfriend and I) should not go on an excursion to the volcano or to the mountains because of the danger. That tourists got robbed and girls got raped. There was really nothing in that town except a few old buildings. We found one bar to go out and that was full of mostly very strange European and American tourists and not what we were looking for. No salsa or Latin music anywhere. In any case, if you are still not convinced, do NOT go there by yourself, take somebody along to accompany you. What are you going to do there after class?

    If you absolutely want to go to Guatemala, do it, but don't waste your money with salsa classes. Guatemala is really NOT the place to learn salsa. Go and see lago Atitlán and Tikal. And do not go all by yourself.

    OK, time to go and see Dancing with the Stars!
  5. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    No harm and no foul SA, you're a long time meber in good standing, so I know you didn't mean anything by it.

    HailMary, I'd really listen to SA's advice if I were in your shoes. :?
  6. alvaro

    alvaro New Member


    first of all, let me say that i am from latin america ... while it certainly doesnt mean that everything i say will be true, at least it is first hand!

    Now, latin america is not exactly the best choice to come learn salsa!!...
    There are only a few countries in latin america where salsa is part of its "roots": Cuba, Puerto Rico, Colombia, maybe to some extent Panama and Venezuela. In fact, most of the countries in latin america are not even "dancing" countries!. You asked why is it so different (dancing) from Cuba to Central America, one of the reasons has to be the ethnicity: Most islands in the caribbean have little (or none at all) indians and lots of African descent (and so, lots of dancing!), most places in Central America are mostly indian descent! (and very little dancing). That makes a hell of a difference when you talk about dancing salsa. In most places in Latin America salsa is more foreign than Rock 'n Roll!!

    So, if you are planning to go to Guatemala to learn salsa ... dont!!. Guatemala is not a salsa country! at all!. You will find teachers there, but you'll find much better teachers in LA, Miami, or NY.

    Even Panama (my country) is not a good place to go learn salsa!. Panama is one of the few "dancing countries" in Latin America, you walk the streets and you'll hear salsa being played inside almost every store (really!), every party and every disco will feature salsa!. But it is NOT a good place to go learn salsa: people in Panama (and in Latin America in general) view dancing differently from you guys (North America, Europe, ...). You'll have a hard time finding an all-salsa night at a disco (or an all-anything-night for that matter), the idea of learning to count the music, or steps and styling moves, and combinations is soooo foreign ... if you ask someone "what style of salsa do you dance?", or "do you dance on 1 or on2?" you'll just get a blank stare back... Panama (and Colombia, and Dominicana, and ...) are great places to DANCE... but not to learn a structured style form.

    I'm getting off-topic. My point is, if you want to learn Salsa in Latin America: go to Cuba or PR, as it has been said. Also Colombia, i can ask which city is best (maybe Cali).

    If you HAVE to study Salsa in Latin America ... a great possibility is Buenos Aires (Argentina), they have awsome dancers ... and since salsa is foreign to them you'll find teachers and academies and workshops and seminars, etc. It will be very similar to USA in style, which means you'll get to use immediately everything you learn. Also, Buenos Aires is VERY inexpensive and a fun nice city. I live in Chile right now, Santiago is MUCH more expensive than Buenos Aires, here i pay us$ 20 for a two hrs. private lesson, in Buenos Aires you'll have jazz, salsa, rumba, hip-hop lessons at very affordable prices
    (for example, at the mendoza congress last year(another Argentinian city) the complete package: two dance nights, shows, two days of workshops was offered for us$ 25!).
    Plus, you'll get to dance Tango!.

    sorry for the looong post!


    P.S. I just came back from a quick trip to Cuba ... there were plenty Americans!, you buy the visa at the airport or at a travel agency (i bought it at a travel agency in Panama): it takes 20 minutes, and the visa is not stamped, nor glued nor sealed to your passport, it is just a paper that you carry with your passport, i believe it was made this way to make things easier for american tourists.
  7. Legato Bluesummers

    Legato Bluesummers New Member

    Wow...I am really surprised at the borderline animosity at learning salsa in Latin America.

    I didn't know anything about Salsa until I went to Costa Rica. Costa Rica is where I learned to dance Salsa. I go there every summer to as a matter of fact.

    It all depends on what style you are focused on. There is really no On2 taught in Central America. So if that is the only style that you are interested in then OF COURSE Central America is not for you.

    Their style of salsa is different. It doesn't mean that it is wrong or an any way inferior. No you will not learn how to do neck drops or lifts. No you will not learn shines or styling. Nor will the lesson be focused on timing, footwork or precison.

    But you will learn how to dance with your partner. You will learn connection and you will have fun.

    I saw some amazing dancers down there. I saw couples dancing entire songs without one cross body lead and it was SMOOTH. I saw men dancing to the level of their partner as opposed to attempting some armlock or intricate turn pattern that left their partner confused...and covering up their mistake with a practiced shine pattern.

    If you want to learn more about the culture of Salsa Costa Rica (San Jose) is a good place to go although you would not need to stay there longer than a month provided you had lesson every day and went out every month.

    Of course if you compare it to New York or L.A. wyou will be diasappointed. That would be unfair to any city.

    Go to Central America...if not for the Salsa, for the wonderful people, culture, and the experience.
  8. new-ish

    new-ish New Member

    You might want to check out the Salsa Congresses. Find one in a place that you like. There will be plenty of classes, lots of incredible teachers available for privates and plenty of dancing. Salsaweb .com has a list of congresses. Salsapower .com has a lot of information about dancing other cities.

    Regarding Buenos Aires, travel time is better from California now that you can go through Houston or Dallas instead of Miami (15hrs from SFO instead of 18.) Just remember, seasons are opposite down there.
  9. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    Actually, for one of the most complete listings of Annual Salsa Congresses & Events you won't do any better than DF's own list: :D
  10. africana

    africana New Member

    i finally read this thread and was going to comment but Alvaro has already made the most important point why most latino countries are not good for salsa (and I was surprised other posters didin't comment on this...)
    the drums from Africa make all the difference from other music/dance forms found indigenously in South/central America

    I often get queried by Mexcians and other latinos on why I dance the way I dance, they say I must be from mexcio or latin America BIG LOL seems most do need a history lesson

    in summary if you're in Cali, find some good schools or training group in LA or SF, much cheaper. Or fly to NY/PR
  11. HailMary

    HailMary New Member

    Hey everyone. Thanks for all your thoughtful and detailed replies. I've read and considered all of them.

    Now, I think we all agree that Central America isn't the ideal place to study salsa, with the exception of certain teachers/classes, of course. And it's agreed that Cuba and PR are the best. However, I can't afford PR and I can't get into Cuba so I need to consider other options.

    So, if you all can help me find places OTHER THAN Cuba or PR to study salsa, that would be great!

    The Buenos Aires idea was a good one, and I'm very interested in following up on it. The city is known for Tango, of course, but is there also some good salsa study in Buenos Aires? Has anyone studied there in the past? If so, where did you study?

    Costa Rica was also not a bad idea, though there seems to be some disagreement on this forum about whether or not studying in Central America is a waste of time. What about Venezuela? How's the salsa there?

    Basically, I'm looking for places to study that are quite cheap (where I can take private lessons, rather than group lessons) and that have decent teachers. I'm no hotshot (only a beginner) dancer, so all the advanced work is beyond me, at this point. I just need a few good teachers who will teach me privately for a few hours each day.
  12. alvaro

    alvaro New Member

    Legato, there is no animosity!. I mean, i'm from Panama, i love the place!. I've been to San Jose twice, had a wonderful time ... i just don't think either justifies a studying trip.

    So, cheap, good teachers ... i think that leaves you with:
    A) Colombia.
    B) Argentina.

    I've taken great workshops with people from Buenos Aires. If you want good teachers, good styling, good technique in a latin country, i'd say go to Buenos Aires... still, Buenos Aires is "less latin" (i mean, most of them are italians!!) ... and that could be good or bad, depending on what you are looking for!.

    If, on the other hand, you want to dance with people that absolutely LOVE dancing, that were born dancing, that care for their partner and the music and having fun first and foremost ... then you should go to Colombia. A (salsero) friend of mine was traveling there last year for a couple of months, i'll ask him which city he thinks is better. Cali (city in Colombia) is filled with salsa bands. Think about it, the only countries in latin america making lots of salsa music are PR, Cuba and Colombia.
  13. alvaro,

    Very interesting and great explanation of the reason why many LA countries are not good places for *learning* salsa. And interesting to hear that not even Panama as a real "salsa country" would be a good place to learn.

    Buenos Aires sounds great, makes me want to go, too! One of my Latin American girlfriends, who travels to Argentina for business every now and then, also says that Buenos Aires is a beautiful city. And the better if you can learn good salsa there. Plus, you have all that great tango argentino!!!

    If you go there you might come back as "tanguera" and a better salsera, how about that?

    You ask about Venezuela. My experience is too old to tell, I was there in 1990 and was a bloody salsa beginner (basic step and right turn). Yes, there was some salsa and I danced a few salsas also. But I was not in one of the real salsa night clubs. There was music all day everywhere (in the street, in the stores, in the buses), however, I cannot remember having heard a lot of salsa music in particular. It was mixed: merengue, baladas and some salsa. I remember I always heard Juan Luis Guerra, Ricardo Montaner, Ana Gabriel, Guillermo d'Avila (a Venezuelan singer) etc.
    I would guess that the better salsa clubs are in Caracas. But Caracas is a very dangerous city. I had been warned by other travellers who had traveled in several Latin American countries. My Peruvian girlfriend later confirmed that. She grew up in Lima and is used to live in much more dangerous places than me. She had a boyfriend from Venezuela and spent many a vacation there. She is latina and looks very latina, not "gringa" like you (I suppose) and me, which means that she should be in less danger than us. But she got robbed and threatened with a knife in a bus in Caracas during the day.

    I hear that Cali (Colombia) has great salsa music and the Cali salsa festival is certainly worth going. However, Colombia also is a dangerous place with all the kidnappings going on. The other thing about Colombia is that I believe they do not have any kind of "style", either. They LOVE to party and to dance and they love salsa, but like I said I still have to dance with the first Colombian lead that does more than a left and a right turn and a turn behind his back. Now, I have not been to Colombia myself and this is only my personal experience dancing with Colombians. Their dance style is very different to Puerto Rico, Cuba, LA and NYC. It is mostly basic step to the side (less back and front) and a few turns. And their salsa music also is different, does not have the variations of Puerto Rican salsa or mambo, for example. So it is not music for shines etc.

    Costa Rica has good salsa, no doubt about it. And I also saw very good dancers there. As a salsa beginner (this was in 1991) almost everybody looked great to me and some people looked outstanding. Salsa 54 was a great salsa club with two dance floors (still in operation I read), the second dance floor was on a stage and only the best dancers deared to dance there. That is where I saw my first "live" real Latin cha cha and I was all in awe. I knew cha-cha-cha (like dance schools call it) only from dance school and had never seen it danced like that. I was all exited! Here is a link to a German web site with a good report about the salsa and music scene in Costa Rica: (if you can read German).
  14. HailMary

    HailMary New Member

    Great advice, everyone.

    Has anyone studied salsa in either Costa Rica or Buenos Aires? If so, any good classes/teachers/schools that you could recommend?

    Does anyone know approximately what a private salsa lesson would cost in Argentina? I know they had an economic collapse a few years ago, but I got the impression that the economy has improved quite a bit.
  15. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Hi HailMary. Sorry this message wasn't sooner, but I've been at work, mostly, since Friday.

    Welcome to the forums. :D
  16. new-ish

    new-ish New Member

    I researched Costa Rica extensively before the Tango disease infected me and the program that looked interesting to me was at spanishandmore .com. I have booked the tickets to Buenos Aires and the people that I am currently communicating with about Tango are at argentinatango .com. Obviously they specialize in Tango, but they do list Salsa as a dance they teach.

    I think that US summer is "low" season in BA and SJO so general prices should be low, but I think airfare to BA (EZE) will be about twice as much as SJO. Once you get there, I "think" Argentina will be a little less expensive.

    Echoing other posters, I really think dance lessons should be a secondary consideration from your travel plans. I'm from the Central Coast area of California and don't know of many places that do not have good Salsa instruction. My personal opinion of Dance Travel is that it is to understand the soul of the dance by understanding the culture that produced it and Salsa is not from Costa Rica or Argentina.

    I have heard that Buenos Aires is a very beautiful city and Uruguay, Chile and Brazil are very close by and great places to visit. My research has indicated that SJO itself is not that nice, but there are lots of great things to see and do in Costa Rica.
  17. Definitely! No, San José is not a particularly interesting city. But the country is really interesting with its natural beauty and diversity: beautiful beaches where iguanas sit about 2-3 feet from your towel (Manuel Antonio national park) and watch you sun bathing, rain forest, volcanoes, gorgeous national parks with different plants and birds and reptiles etc. etc.
  18. Ellis

    Ellis New Member

    Don't completely rule out Cuba - about 6000 US residents travel there legally, but 200,000 visit Cuba each year!

    AFAIK, it is actually only illegal for a US resident to spend their money in Cuba!

    I came across this FAQ and these notes some time ago which describes a means of travelling to Cuba without any tell-tale signs in your passport! The is more information on Cuba Junky.

    You could also look for a licenced humanitarian aid travel orgainser - you will have to do some humanitarian aid work, but could do Salsa in your time off - you might even find one who organises precisely that!
  19. MacMoto

    MacMoto Active Member

    Hi HailMary,

    I'm curious... why do you want to go to Latin America to study salsa dancing? Is your main purpose learning/improving your dancing or seeing and learning about Latin America? If it's mostly salsa tuition you are after, I would have thought the best place in the world would be LA and NY (unless you specifically want to learn Cuban style). Considering you are in California, it shouldn't be too difficult for you to find good local(ish) classes taught by top-class teachers. If your interest is in Latin American culture in general and not just salsa dancing, then by all means go and explore. Read up on different countries and go to the country you want to see. If it turns out there's not much salsa there, there will be plenty of other things to see and do, and you can always go to salsa classes when you get back.
  20. alemana

    alemana New Member

    she's said several times that it's much cheaper to travel to and support oneself in latin america versus nyc or miami (and that's absolutely right - the instruction/housing/meals WILL be much cheaper.) i understand the impulse to bundle the urge to see a new place and to advance one's dancing into one vacation; sadly it seems true that the least expensive places don't provide good salsa instruction.

Share This Page