Cali, the City of Salsa

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Before coming to Cali, all my Colombia friends told me that Cali is the city of salsa. When I arrived to the city I saw that they were right. Because, where you go in this city you can hear a salsa song.

I stayed more than 1 month in Cali, and in 2 weeks of this period I stayed in the Arrebato Caleno Salsa School. All days I listened salssa songs and I watched people who were dancing salsa. I can say that this city is reallt addicted to salsa. That is why almost every tourist in this city take at least 1 lesson salsa class in Cali.

Here is an interview I made with Nhora Alejandra, the owner of the Arrebato Caleno. Before enjoying the salsa here is a summary about salsa. Believe me, in Colombia “Salsa” is much more important than Spanish.

What is salsa?

Salsa is a feeling.  It’s magic, passion, love, freedom, joy, color, movement and flavor.  Salsa dancing has its origins in Afro-Cuban rhythms, especially the mambo, the danzon, the cha cha cha, the guaracha and the son montuno, and is also influenced by a variety of other elements found in Caribbean music.  In the 1950s, salsa spread from Cuba to New York, where it was enriched with a diversity of musical instruments, including the trumpet, the trombone and the saxophone, giving life to the rhythm of salsa.

What does dancing and also salsa mean for the Colombian people?

Dance is a form of expression, full of sensations and the movements of our feet, knees, hips, waist, chest, and shoulders.  We have listened and danced to salsa since the day we were born, especially in the city of Cali, considered to be the world capital of salsa, where we grow, gain nourishment from, and live with salsa and for salsa.  When we hear the most popular songs that touch our hearts, it doesn’t matter where we are, children, young people, and adults immediately start dancing.  Our feelings toward salsa sometimes have no explanation, it’s just a great passion that is in our blood and courses through our hearts.

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What types of salsa are there in the World?  Which of them are the most popular in Colombia? What are the differences between them?

Cuban style salsa, line salsa, and Cali style salsa are the most recognized styles of salsa in the world.  The practice of Cuban salsa is very strong in Colombia, but Cali style salsa has claimed an important space on the national and even the international stage.  Cali style salsa is beginning to spread beyond Colombia as well, with dance schools opening in Paris, France and Fukuoka, Japan where two dancers from Cali, Francy Barahona and Ricardo Murillo are leaders in spreading Cali style salsa, as well as ensuring that our culture continues to be shared with the rest of the world.

Which salsa singers/groups and songs are the most popular in Colombia?

In Colombia, the most popular Salsa groups are Guayacan Orquesta, Grupo Niche, Yuri Buenaventura, Fruko y sus Tesos, Grupo Kanela,  and Son de Cali.

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Why is Cali the city of salsa?

Cali is a city that conserves the history of salsa, a music that arrived from Colombia’s most important port on the pacific, Buenaventura.  Before the arrival of salsa, people were only listening to the music of Lucho Bermudez and Pacho Galan, meaning the music was stratified in terms of social class. With the arrival of Richie Rey and Bobby Cruz during the 1971 Pan-American games, salsa rapidly started to spread and both rich and poor alike began dancing salsa.  From that moment on, the city of Cali became recognized and known as a symbol of salsa arrebatada.

Can you tell us about your story?

Having finished my studies in Journalism, Social Management and Executive Film Production I went on to work in a number of Colombian Films including Caleño production Que Viva la Música, Saudó and in investigation projects about cultures of musical communication in Cali and in the Institute of Popular Culture driving proceses for the promotion of art and culture in the city.

I have combined these roles with her second great passion; dance. I learned to dance at the age of 10. Influenced in part by my paternal family with the beat of the clave, the maracas, the drums, the 45 revolutions per minute records and a Technics record player the family would listen to the best salsa music of the 90s.

I worked as the dance assistant for Kanelo between 2010 and 2015 and in 2014 I had the opportunity, with the dance club Tintindeo, to take part in Salsodromo (the biggest salsa parade in the world that opens the Cali Fair) along with 200  other pairs of amateur dancers. I have 5 years experience as both a Dancer and Social Dance Teacher.

What made you want to open a dance school (Arrebato Caleno)?

Since 2010 I have been working on the promotion of Cultura de Ciudad through the program of Couchsurfing, where I have had the opportunity to meet many foreigners that want to learn about and dance Cali style Salsa.  Later, I worked as the coordinator of communications for the secretary of culture and tourism where I had the opportunity to be a part of the Festival Mundial de la Salsa 2011 (World festival of Salsa 2011).  All of these experiences gave me the idea to open a salsa school with the objective of promoting social dance and the culture of Cali.  Our purpose is to work toward creating a more positive image of the city.

Can you give information about your school?

Our dance school is open Monday through Sunday (7 days a week) from 9am until 9pm.  Our teachers have many years of experience, training and education in Salsa, with more than 30 years of combined experienced.

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What are your future plans for the salsa school?

Our hope is to open more Arrebato Caleño dance schools throughout Colombia and throughout the world, giving us the opportunity to travel and share our culture and style of dance.

What are your recommendations for those who want to start salsa?

If you want to learn to dance salsa, it’s really important that you enjoy doing it.  My recommendations for people that really want to learn are to listen to a lot of salsa music so that they become familiar with the sounds and the rhythm, and to come to Cali and enjoy our culture, our social life, our flavor, our people, and of course to take salsa classes at our dance. school, Arrebato Caleno.

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