In Guangzhou, on any given night of the week, there is a vibrant party; spoken language isn't a requirement for communication. Those in attendance converse through dance, interpreted through the sounds of Latin rhythms.
I'm new to Guangdong, in between Shenzhen and Guangzhou; from a Latin dance perspective, nowhere. An acquaintance provided me with a list of dance locations in Guangzhou. Surprisingly, the city’s dancing scene is hosted by a different venue every night of the week. I'm a social dancer from New York City (considered by many to be the Mecca of Salsa dancing) and I can tell you that having this many options is indicative of a thriving dance community.
I'm in Guangzhou for the weekend, and around ten-ish Friday evening; after a three month dance hiatus, I eagerly make my way to a place called V-bar. It’s a cool lounge, shaped like the letter. As you enter there is a bar to the left, a spacious dance floor to the right surrounded by gaudy furniture which provides a slightly elegant feel. It's still early, the music is played at a moderate level, and there are few dancers on the floor, with just as many spectators.
I stretch in the corner near the bar; simultaneously studying the dancers and a group in the far corner practicing some steps. While changing into my dance shoes, a number of slim Chinese women saunter into the lounge, exuding an air of petite modern elegance. Their thick soled shoes and sandals are exchanged for high heeled dance shoes. These women are Salseras; females who dance to Salsa music.
The Salseros, primarily Chinese men, swagger into the bar. They have an air of confidence about them. Dance attitude is universal; a good dancer speaks with his body language and posture before he steps onto the dance floor.
I finish stretching and extend my hand to an attractive Chinese woman pushing forty. She smiles and we're dancing. She's spinning and appears to be enjoying herself; we have a silent conversation, a discussion communicated through our dance.
In between songs I strike up a conversation with a very musical dancer named Red. He's a Korean dance teacher, new to Guangzhou. He explained why the city's Salsa scene is flourishing. "I came to Guangzhou seven months ago, now I have my own dance studio. The dance industry of Guangzhou is developing so fast… People have more money for leisure life… Guangzhou is nearby Hong Kong, dancers can visit Guangzhou for workshops and parties. Now, there are so many different styles of teachers."
A few songs later, I invite a young lady to the dance floor. In between spins, this rhythmic soul tells me that she's an American named Heather. After the dance, we chit chat and her face glows when speaking about the Latin dance community and its importance to her "It's my lifeline here… I can meet all kinds of people… It doesn't matter if their English is not so good or my Chinese is not so good… We still share something in common and communicate through that."
The following morning, I'm added to a Wechat group for Salsa dancers and I managed to strike up a conversation with an experienced Italian Salsera named Giulia. She recalls the early days of Salsa in Guangzhou:
"When we started in 2007, there was a small group of people; most of them did not live in Guangzhou… The group has been growing very quickly recently which is good. It's a nice community, we know everybody around, and there is no prejudice. It’s multiracial and multicultural."
Throughout the day, I chat with a few more dancers in the group and in the evening, I head to Q bar which is located inside of the Westin Hotel. Q bar is spacious and modern in design, a small stage is positioned in front of a hard wood floor, there's ample seating, delicate lighting and a decent cooling system; all factors for a great dancing location.
John is a fairly tall, tan skinned Columbian who I remember seeing at V bar the night before. We greet one another that evening. He arrived in Guangzhou in 2004. He provided me with the history of Latin dance in Guangzhou:
"There were some Korean and Japanese teachers and some girls learning from Beijing teachers, but Salsa never got any kind of Latin influence. It wasn't until a guy from Venezuela and a DJ from Chicago, a Columbian, invited me to go to Pattyfield, to spend some time listening to Salsa. Then after that, Chinese people knew that we were listening to Salsa and they started to come and started to dance… Thursday nights became the Salsa night in Guangzhou. That was the only night we had Salsa with Latino flavor."
Between songs, I catch my breath and study the crowd. I'm the only African American on the dance floor but despite this, I feel a certain level of comfort amongst these men and women I don't know: Latino and Chinese, Middle Eastern and European, young and old, all of these people from disparate ethnic groups, communicating through dance, celebrating our souls through enjoyment of music.
Regardless of your age, ethnic group, whether you're a foreigner or Chinese, this is an invitation to an ongoing party in Guangzhou, taking place any given night of the week, participants speaking a common language, unified by the rhythms of Salsa.
Try it out
If you’ve been inspired to check out Guangzhou’s salsa parties for yourself, events are held at the following bars on a weekly basis:
As well as:
MiuMiu BarView In Map
Address: 21 Jianshima Lu, Yuexiu District, Guangzhou
Duyi Bar Hilton Hotel View In Map
Add: 1F, 215 Linhexi Lu, Tianhe Disctrict, Guangzhou
Your Place View In Map
Add: G17, Xingsheng Lu，Zhujiang New Town, Tianhe District, Guangzhou
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Keywords: Salsa in Guangzhou Latin Dance in Guangzhou
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