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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Century Ballroom Samba Party!

Century Ballroom is celebrating its anniversary this Saturday. The 6 1/2-hour party lasts from 7 pm. until 1:30 a.m. and is free.

Interested parties are invited to submit the names of three of your favorite dance songs. Of course, there's no guarantee that they'll play any of your choices, but it sounds like fun - especially when they've specified no genre.

As just about any Seattle salser@ who's reading this blog knows, Century Ballroom is the Mecca of Seattle's salsa scene, serving as Seattle's premier salsa dance venue and school both, with a little cha cha, bachata and merengue thrown in. Together with its sister studio, HaLo, it also focuses heavily on tango and swing. So I'm guessing that the submissions will consist largely of salsa, cha cha, merengue, bachata, tango and swing.

The one thing Century Ballroom is missing is samba - and I discovered just recently that there is a samba community here in Seattle. I'm intrigued by the fact that the salsa and samba communities are so distinct; at one samba party at Nectar Lounge, I didn't recognize one person from the salsa community.

In related news, I've just learned that Brazilian Songbird - the first album released by my favorite local band, Sambatuque - is now available for sale on iTunes, Rhapsody, Amazon, ReverbNation and Facebook. I LOVE this album, which, as you might guess, features mostly samba. But one song, Tanta Saudade, ranks as one of my top ten favorite salsa songs. I refer to it as Brazilian Salsa, because it's so unique.

In fact, the song is part of a medley - Chegui Meu Povo/Tanta Saudade. Chegui Meu Povo is samba, and it doesn't sound extremely danceable to my ears, though I love the song. But it's hard to sit still while listening to Sambatuque's version of Tanta Saudade.

So let me get to the point: I want to ask you two favors.

First, I'm DYING to know if other salsa addicts like Tanta Saudade half as much as I do. I even discussed this song on an online forum, but it was surprisingly hard to find online audios that people could listen to. Now, you can buy this song (or two-song medley) for just ninety-nine cents. So if you can afford to part withi the better part of a dollar, please buy the song, listen to it and tell me what you think.

Second, I'd love to hear this song played in a local club. In fact, I'd love to dance to it. So I'd like to ask some of you to make Chegui Meu Povo/Tanta Saudade one of the three songs you submit to Century Ballroom. Don't just list the song; tell them WHY you'd like them to play it. Better yet, send them the link to this blog post.

The icing on the cake: Promoting this song would also help promote a local band, and it would further help promote a greater awareness of samba.

In fact, all three of my suggested songs have some connection to samba: Chegui Meu Povo/Tanta Saudade, Another Star (Stevie Wonder) and The Girl from Ipanema (jazz guitarist Charlie Byrd's version).

I heard Another Star years ago, but it didn't really register with me until I heard Sambatuque perform it recently. I then checked out Stevie Wonder's version again, and it's now one of my favorite Latin songs. At least, I think it can be considered samba.

On second thought, I'd like to ask you THREE favors. 1) Buy the song Chegui Meu Povo/Tanta Saudade and let me know what you think about it. 2) Ask Century Ballroom to play it. 3) Consider including another samba song among your three choices.

Another Star and The Girl from Ipanema would be great choices, as would be Mas Que Nada. (Sergio Mendes' original version of Mas Que Nada is my favorite, but a Japanese lady named Nilo Koizumi also has a cool version, which you can find on YouTube.)

So will I even attend Century Ballroom's birthday party? I'm not really sure what to expect, and I certainly wouldn't stay for more than two or three hours. But I'm guessing there will be a mixture of salsa, swing and tango dancers there, which could be kind of interesting. And if I knew they were going to play that one song - Tanta Saudade - I'd have a hard time staying away.

For whatever it's worth, I'm taking cha cha and bachata classes at Century Ballroom/HaLo right now. In fact, there are several cha cha songs I'd l ove to request, including Funky Cha-Cha (Arturo Sandoval), No Me Llores Mas (Ismael Miranda) and Sway (Rosemary Clooney). But I thought it would be fun to try and persuade Century Ballroom to embrace a new genre this time around.

You can e-mail your three favorite dance songs to Century Ballroom at Office@CenturyBallroom.com

I'd love to know what songs you requested, especially if one of them is Tanta Saudade. :)

Vertigo Meetup

If you're looking for some mid-week salsa action, check out Vertigo, in Bellevue tonight (Tuesday, Feb. 23). Disclaimer: I've never been there, and I'm not even certain I'll be able to make it tonight. But it sounds interesting.

Last week was the grand opening of Vertigo's salsa night, which begins with two salsa classes (beginners' salsa and ladies' styling) taught by Samantha Brava (7-9 p.m.). Though the six-week series started last week, it might not be too late to start tonight. I suspect you might even be able to pay for a single drop-in class, if you just want to check it out.

Samantha is reportedly available for private lessons from 9 p.m. on as well.

Tonight is a special night because Samantha's son, Rico Brava Jr., is flying in from LA to give a performance on his mother's birthday.

Vertigo apparently has two dance floors, though I'm not certain if both will be in action tonight. I'm guessing they might have salsa on one floor and some other dance genre on the other, similar to Rock Salt.

Again, I really know nothing about Vertigo, but I suspect some salser@s might enjoy checking it out tonight. (Did I mention there's no cover charge?) There's more information about it on the Eastside Salsa Meetup Group's page.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Seattle Latin Musicians Page

After launching me new Seattle Latin Community page, I launched a Seattle Latin Bands pages. This blog post serves primarily as a place for people to comment on the next page, which will focus on Seattle's Latin Musicians. (You can also e-mail me via my Contact Page - or e-mail me directly, if you know my e-mail address.)

The Musicians page will probably be organized similar to my Bands page. Hopefully, I can get most of my questions answered by simply contacting local Latin bands.

In the meantime, please let me know if you spot any errors, or if you can think of any musicians I should add to my list.

My site lists Latin dance teachers, so why not Latin music teachers?

I feared that might be a little complex. After all, many Latin musicians take classes from "mainstream" teachers, at least in the beginning, right?

Nevertheless, I think it would be a good idea to at least mention SOME Latin music teachers. So I'd like to begin by adding the following information, wherever possible:

1) Who taught each of the band members listed on my site?

2) Which of the band members offer lessons themselves?

If you think you deserve to be listed on my Musicians page (either as a performer or a teacher), then please send me some information regarding your lessons. Hey, played a little guitar, piano and trombone when I was younger, and I've been thinking of taking a few basic Latin percussion lessons myself. :)

Thanks for any tips!

Seattle Latin Bands Page

After launching me new Seattle Latin Community page, I launched a Seattle Latin Bands pages. This blog post serves primarily as a place for people to comment on the Bands page or offer additional information or advice. (You can also e-mail me via my Contact Page - or e-mail me directly, if you know my e-mail address.)

Anyway, my new Bands page features a list of twenty Seattle area Latin bands, with links to their websites and Facebook/MySpace pages (if any).

A second table organizes the bands by genre or style and offers a brief description. Finally, I created a table that lists the members of each band.

I'm already working on my Musicians page, but I still need a lot of help with my Bands page. Fortunately, I can probably get most of my questions answered by simply contacting each band.

In the meantime, please let me know if you see any errors - or if I've left out any bands or band members.

I want to add at least one more feature: A list of albums recorded by each of these bands and links to online audio files, so visitors can hear samples of their music.

Also, I might add some sort of performance calendar, though I'll probably just work that into my existing Seattle Salsa Calendar.

Thanks for any tips!

Seattle Latin Community Page

Good news: I've finally figured out how to organize my Seattle Salsa website. You can see my inspiration at the new Community and Bands pages.

As you can see, my idea is quite simple, but I have a lot of work to do - and I need your help.

You can start by taking a glance at the Community page and giving me some feedback. (You can either e-mail me via this page or post a comment right below this blog post.)

Do you like the way I've organized this page? Do you have any ideas for improving it? Do you know of any local individuals, bands or businesses that I left out? I don't have a list of all of Seattle's Latin dance teachers, musicians or clubs, so I need help tracking all of them down.

Next, I want to work on the Musicians page. I'll create separate blog pages where people can comment on the Bands, Musicians and other section pages. This post is for commenting on the Community page or the overall project.

Thanks for any feedback!

Busy February!

Wow, Seattle's Latin entertainment scene may seem lame compared to LA or San Francisco, but first appearances can be deceiving. Take February 20 - please.

As all diehard Salser@s know, Seattle's #1 Salsa hangout, Century Ballroom, has been in cabaret mode for the last few weeks. The first post-cabaret Saturday Salsa fling is on February 20. But there's a lot of competition.

I've long wanted to see one of Seattle's most unique Latinish performing groups, Children of the Revolution. As you probably guessed, they're performing in Kirkland on Feb. 20. Then I discovered another event that looks hard to resist: The 16th Annual Brazilian Carnaval of Seattle.

A couple nights ago, I learned about a THIRD mega-Latin event scheduled for February 20: The 11th Annual Fiesta de la Independencia de la Republica Dominicana, featuring plenty of Bachata, Merengue and Perico Ripiao. (If you don't know what Perico Ripiao is, join the crowd.)

Why do all these events have to be scheduled on the same night???

In the meantime, I've been checking out some local Salsa clubs, attending Rock Salt, China Harbor and Selena's Guadalajara for the first time - and I was impressed.

I've generally shunned clubs (other than Century Ballroom and HaLo), largely because I thought the people who hang out there are pretty good dancers. In fact, it looks to me like many of them are pretty average. Rather than dance better, they dance different than what those of us who have been living under the shadow of Century Ballroom or whatever dance teacher we've adopted are used to.

China Harbor and Rock Salt are interesting because they're so near each other, yet they're so different. China Harbor used to be Seattle's #1 Latin dance venue, but Rock Salt has stolen its thunder. In fact, many of the Salsa heavyweights who were headquartered at China Harbor have relocated to Rock Salt.

Which isn't to say China Harbor is a bad place. It struck me as a relatively mellow place, compared to Century Ballroom. With a smaller dance floor but a much smaller audience, it was a nice change of pace. It would probably be a nice place to take a date.

At first, I liked the music a little better, too, but I began to grow weary of the Merengue and "Mexican Cumbia" songs they played later in the night. However, the audience didn't seem to object. I assume the audience consisted primarily of people who have found their niche at China Harbor.

Rock Salt is bigger, fancier and more vibrant than China Harbor, with two dance floors (Salsa downstairs and Reggaeton upstairs). I had the impression that it catered to a younger, rowdier crowd. In fact, I didn't see any rough stuff, but I did see a major security team, with no shortage of big, burly bouncers and guys wearing black shirts emblazoned with the word SECURITY. A guy stationed at the entrance with a portable metal detector made sure no one brought any knives or firearms inside.

The Salsa room has far more seating room than dance floor, but the tables are spaced pretty far apart, and people aren't shy about dancing between them. It seemed like a really fun atmosphere. With several Salsa VIP's on the premises, I had some interesting/educational conversations, too.

China Harbor and Rock Salt aren't the only Salsa neighbors. Just two or three buildings seprate Babalu and Selena's Guadalajara in North Seattle's Walingford neighborhood. Selena's has that Mexican restaurant look - probably because it IS a Mexican restaurant. Babalu is much more posh. One might call it more of a yuppie hangout.

It's kind of like comparing Matador and La Carta de Oaxaca, neighboring Mexican restaurants in Ballard. Matador is a really fancy "Tex/Mex" place. La Carta de Oaxaca is much plainer but more authentic and really cool in its own way.

Having visited Babalu and Selena's Guadalajara just once, I can't really say which one I like best. Selena's was much less crowded, and I thought it seemed a little more fun. They kicked off the night with a free dance class taught by a local Cuban dance teacher, Carlos Lazo.

Incidentally, there probably isn't a lot of competition between the four clubs I mentioned above because Rock Salt and Selena's have their Salsa nights on Saturday, while China Harbor and Babalu do Salsa on Friday and Wednesday, respectively. (I think; I need to check the details again.)

I believe China Harbor is going to start featuring beginning Salsa classes, also.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention what appears to be a Latin mega-party at a new club called Republiq on February 19. I have't done a lot of research on it yet, but that's shaping up to be one wild weekend. Stay tuned!