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The Rise of Latin Dance in Buffalo

10:57 PM, Aug 30, 2013   |    comments
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BUFFALO, N.Y. - Latin dance in the City of Buffalo is exploding.

Salsa, merenge, and bachata dancing can be found on a level never seen before in Buffalo.

The steps, the rhythm and the spirit have always been alive here, but never as powerful. Dance floors, citywide, fill up with people of all ages and all shades, falling in love with the music.

A few years ago, there wasn't much of a Latin dance scene here. Before 52 West Chippewa became a Mighty Taco last year, it used to be called La Luna.

And, it was the one place dancers would go.

But, La Luna closed down in 2010, after the owner wanted to pursue other business opportunities, leaving people without a place to go.

The driving force behind the rise of Latin dancing here has been from the work Calvin Rice and Fanny Olaya. Together they form Baila Salsa and together they are the king and queen of salsa dancing in Buffalo.

"As a result of not having a place to go and dance salsa we kind of started doing our own social nights on Wednesday nights," said Rice, "and before you knew it, we had people asking us to do something on a Friday night and now we do events on Saturday as well and it just kind of snowballed from there."

Olaya said: "I don't think it was nothing close to what we have right now, now the interest is in learning how to dance, instead of just going to a place and just listen to the music and drink."

Calvin and Fanny began holding classes right after La Luna closed and have been growing the Latin dance scene ever since.

Today, there are six places throughout the city that have Latin dancing that've all started over the last two years and Baila Salsa hosts the dancing at three of the locations.

Latin dance at Epic on Elmwood has been going on for more than a year. Dancing at Pucho Olivencia downtown has been going on since this past winter and Canalside dancing just started this summer.

"I would say we stay pretty busy, we try to keep ourselves busy," said Rice, and that, "if there is salsa going on, they're here, they are passionate about it, we're passionate about it, that's what I like to see and makes me happy to see people enjoying it the way I do."

Calvin and Fanny also teach at Casa de Arte on Elmwood.

The doors are open to anyone starting out and those with moves.

Breathing excitement into the Latin dance scene are experienced dancers. But, it's a growing number of newcomers who've contributed to the rise. Like Jonathan Denten and Tracy Wong, who met on the dance floor.

"He would come up to me and say, do you wanna dance bacchata? and I'll be like, okay, bacchata is so romantic," said Wong.

Denten said, "you feel like you're not in the place that you are, it's a great experience."

The rise of Latin dance here has made the city part of a circuit in Western and Central New York, joining Rochester and Syracuse, as cities where Latin bands and performers travel to.

"I think over the last couple of years that we've been coming here we found that they are more and more excited to see us and they're getting more and more energetic to being a part of it," said Benjamin Comer, a trumpet player in Grupo Calle Uno, a Latin band, based in Rochester.

And more shows with more people filling nightclubs brings in more revenue for businesses.

"I would say without a doubt, our volume has increased at least 30 percent with the salsa classes being offered here on Wednesday nights," said Willie Olivencia, Jr., who operates Pucho Olivencia. "We weren't even open prior to the dance class coming in here."

"The more people that are interested, the better for everybody and I think the better for the culture, the dance, and the music that we love so much," said Rice.

For more information:

Baila Salsa holds dance classes on Sunday afternoons from 12pm to 4pm. More information can be found at salsabuffalo.com.

Canalside dancing can be found on Mondays or Tuesdays, more information can be found through Baila Salsa.

Pucho Olivencia holds "Latin Dance nights," on Wednesday evenings. More information can be found by calling 852-1648.

Delaware Park holds salsa dancing on Sundays.

Social dancing at Epic Restaurant at 431 Elmwood Ave. is held on Friday nights, beginning at 10 p.m.

Mangoz, which is located at 577 Forest Ave., holds Latin Night dancing on Saturday nights beginning at 10 p.m. More information can be found by contacting Lavana Productions on Facebook.

Maggie's at 715 Military Road in Buffalo, also holds Latin dancing and more information can be found by calling 877-9258.

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