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Note: You've heard of the old movie titled American in Paris, well this is our little Salsa version titled A New Yorker in Tampa or (What its like for a NY dancer visiting the Tampa Salsa scene.
A New Yorker in Tampa
- by Natalia Rodriguez
While I was in Tampa, I had the opportunity to visit Ybor City, Tampa's Latin Quarter, and one of its hottest night clubs, Club 1509. (Ybor City was named after a Cuban cigar manufacturer, Don Vincent Martinez Ybor. The city was born when he moved his factory from Cuba to Tampa in 1885.) I was advised to arrive early to avoid the heavy traffic and a mad search for parking. The main strip is approximately nine blocks long. The streets are closed on Friday and Saturday evenings. This allows visitors a leisurely stroll to their dining or night club destination.Traffic and parking proved not to be a problem. We arrived at approximately 8:30 PM. Latin Quarter, to me, suggested Latin food, so we searched along Seventh Avenue for a Cuban restaurant. We discovered that Ybor City does not have many Cuban restaurants. We located three. Two closed after lunch. The third was too expensive. We settled for Carmine's. Its menu listed hamburgers, pasta, and surprisingly, rice and beans. Since, my heart was set on Latin food I had the (bland) rice and beans with pork and my friend, Angie, had pasta. Other than the rice and beans, nothing about this restaurant suggested we were in a Latin Quarter. After the meal, as I made my way along a long corridor to the ladies room, the sound of a spicy Cha Cha playing increased in volume. My feeling of disappointment ceased. The sound entered through an open door leading to a courtyard. The courtyard was an outdoor bar with a stage and dance floor. Unfortunately, the music was not live. Two couples danced. They were doing something that looked somewhat like Swing or the Lindy Hop. The music lightened my mood and reminded me of the next stop, Club 1509. It was voted the best for Salsa and Merenge, according to the local radio advertisements and Salsaweb. It is located a short distance from the restaurant, on Eighth Avenue between Fifteen and Sixteenth Street. This was the end of my third week in Florida without Salsa. I was ready to dance.
We arrived at Club 1509 at approximately 10:30 PM. The wait on line was short. Carding at the door was necessary. You can hear both the Salsa and Merenge from outside. The salsa sound exited the club through a speaker set above a door. The Merenge played in the bar lounge we entered. Our bags were not searched nor did we pass through any noticeable metal detector. The cover charge was three dollars. We followed the sound of salsa music. It led us to the larger part of the club and the main dance floor. There were people standing along the bar and others sat at the tables. We managed to grab the last table. It was the only table on the dance floor. One of the most conspicuous spots in the club. It proved to be a good choice for two single women. We did not wait very long for partners.
On the dance floor was one couple. They did not dance on any particular timing nor were their basic steps familiar. After a couple of songs, another couple stepped on to the dance floor. Their style was familiar and pleasant to watch. They broke on the one beat and danced in the style used in the Cuban dance La Rueda or Casino. The arms are tight. The turns are quick. The couple frequently swap places with each other. I hope you get the picture. I gather you are familiar with Casino. You might have seen it in Miami or here in New York at the bar restaurant, Louisiana, or maybe Nell's. As the evening progressed, several couples joined together to performed La Rueda. The moves were basic, but it looked good. The Casino dancers gathered in one small section of the dance floor. The remainder of the floor filled with guest doing the basic box and salsa step. A fair number kept the rhythm. Some broke on the one beat. The others broke on whatever beat they desired. Breaking on two does appear to be a New York or professional tradition.
Casual is the preferred choice in Tampa. The most popular attire for the men is blue jeans, a shirt, and sneakers. The ladies, as is typical, dressed in a variety of styles, but none wore evening dresses. I believe the average age of the guest fell in the mid-twenties, young and good looking. They displayed a pleasant nature and friendly attitude. One of the better dancers present ask a young lady to dance. He tried to lead her, but soon gave in to her lead. He started to moving as erratically as she did. Together they made up a fun pattern and enjoyed the rest of the dance. He asked her to dance once more. Then he escorted her back to her friends. . Good manner was the only formality I observed. Every man I danced with escorted me back to my table
I enjoyed my Club 1509 experience. The atmosphere was relaxed and unpretentious. The music was good. My Salsa partners weren't bad. They kept the rhythm and there were one or two good moves. I recommend the club, but to a woman, who only dances breaking on the two beat or likes a lot of turns, I will suggest she leave her dancing shoes home or take a partner. The men will have an easier time finding a good partner if they know how to dance Casino.