Salsa in Cali, the world capital of salsa had been a very special place for me while traveling around the world and left me with a very good memory. Before visiting this place, I had never danced in my life before but Cali, a magical place with good vibe people who love to dance, got me really into it and out of my comfort zone. In fact, I ended up performing a salsa show. Everyone can do this; here you can read how…
Arriving in the capital of salsa: Cali, Colombia
Dancing salsa in Cali was never on my list or priorities and never ever would have if I didn’t have the desire to learn it. Before I arrived, I didn’t even know that salsa was the big thing in Cali. I was just on my way through Colombia and Cali is a destination on the way to Medellin. This plan changed when I arrived in Cali and joined a salsa class in the hostel just for fun. Of course when you are in Cali, you figure out pretty fast that the place is ruled by dancing, dancing and more dancing. When asking some locals about what they do for fun, the response is dance salsa. If you ask them why, they probably say because there is nothing else to do here and smile. So dancing salsa is the culture in Cali and what people understand as a lifestyle.
LIFE IS ABOUT HAPPINESS. THAT’S WHY YOU HAVE TO DO THE THINGS THAT MAKE YOU HAPPYTobias Weber
Have you ever danced before ?
To answer the questions, no I have never danced before in my life and I never thought that I would get into dancing so much, but its Cali and it happens to most of the people who get into it.
How did I get into it ?
It all started with the first group class on the 29th of April, which was fun and challenging at the same time because you need to have a lot of coordination and good sense of rhythm. All I remembered from the class was that I had a lot of fun, sweat like crazy and jumped right into the pool after the class. At night, everyone from the hostel gathered to head out to a salsa bar and that’s when I realised that I needed to learn how to dance; otherwise it’s embarrassing and I would not be able to dance with all the beautiful Colombian women.
The next morning, I went to the reception and signed up for a 10-hour salsa course. But this first 10 hours didn’t really boost my dancing skills or confidence about dancing with other women in the bar, so I had to learn more and take more classes. At least within the first 10 I learned about the rhythm and knew when to start when some girl had the pleasure dancing with me. Before I would be just standing there not knowing when to start and believe me this is not a good feeling actually got me nervous, as the women waits for it. Ha ha. Then another 10-hours with another teacher and another 10-hours with another teacher. Pretty fast I started getting some moves and that’s when you really get into it. Before I got to this level, I always drank a lot to get confidence and not think when on the dance floor; but at some point it wasn’t necessary anymore.
Then the journey around the world continued through Ecuador, Panama and then back to Cali after three months. Coming back then wasn’t the only time that happened to me. I ended up coming back several times because at the time I had a lot of social contacts, but the reality is even if you think you can dance I wasn’t where I wanted to be and during the three months, I forgot a lot of steps. So I had to book more classes with Carlos and Didier again.
Learning the salsa routine
2-3 hours per day was the lifestyle I lived and another 4-5 hours at night; it was pretty awesome. Salsa has clearly lit something great in me and has totally become a new passion of mine because it’s all about happiness! I got more and more into it and even made time to go to another teacher to learn more steps and to improve my technique. The more I learned, the more fun it was dancing with the women and there is no better feedback than, “ooh you dance better than me” ! Seeing yourself dancing better than the locals gave a lot of confidence too.
The salsa bars in Cali, Colombia
The vibes in the bars is magical because people get together to dance. There is no bad intention whatsoever. Everyone dances with everyone and has fun–that’s the key. My two favorite places are: La Topa Tolondra and Tin Tin Deo.
Training for the Salsa performance in a Salsa Show in Cali, Colombia
I had been taking classes with Carlos and Didier; and before I left Cali for good, I didn’t want to leave without doing something special. The teacher who had become a good friend by now proposed doing a show together to remember my time in Cali. Not a single second did I need to think about it; and we already started training.
For the show, we started training 10 days in advance and it came to 12 hours in total. It was a challenge to learn all these new steps (professional steps) and I had to practice a lot between all the classes / rehearsals – by myself in the dance room, by the pool, on the stage, in my room, on the street, … literally everywhere !
Meanwhile, I still took other classes with another teacher to learn and dance more social salsa; and at one stage I had 1-3 hours classes / training per day and still went dancing at night. With all this training, I even noticed that my legs moved at night while sleeping – ha ha.
However, this was too much and at one point my groins started hurting. I had to take a break for a couple of days. We then started training harder with Carlos inventing the choreography step by step by listening to the song. I was so excited the first time I listened to the song we were going to dance – Cuero Nama !
Last minute learning another part for the show
A few days before the show, Francy, the dancing partner of Carlos at all times, came back to Cali for her holiday from France where she has her own school Calisabor. She first watched us practicing our choreography and then came up with the idea of dancing together – 3 days before the show!
I was very happy with the idea because I was also now dancing with a Colombian women and it actually felt like a dream came true. He he. More training to do and I loved it with much excitement.
Things in Cali can be very spontaneous and last minute; but I guess they love the feeling of having pressure, ha ha. We danced together and went through the entire choreography in the first class. The next class was one day before the show and then a last practice run right before the show. You have to believe me that the beautiful dress she was wearing was not what she wore in our classes – so one mistake and the whole thing could come off! Not so easy to handle. Carlos, Didier and Lisa took very good care of me before the show and tried to make me fit into the fancy shiny red pants. They were so tight that with one move, I felt like they would break and come off – ha ha.
Carlos even let me use his old dance shoes, which were so small that it felt so different dancing with them on. We had a few trials outside on the stage by the pool with people observing us. The difference of learning choreography in front of the mirror in the classroom and then not having the mirror anymore is something that I had to get used to. Most of the time, it was too hot outside so we stayed inside. The one time we tried worked pretty well, but the dancing shoes were just not made for me because they had such a different shape and were so slippery.
On performance day, we practiced one more time in the morning, when we came to the decision to shorten the song by five seconds. Shortening it meant that we had to dance faster. It was to be the highlight of the show right at the end !
Prior the show whilst getting ready, I was very excited about the performance but not in a nervous, more in an unknown way of knowing what’s going to happen. We changed and pushed (motivated) each other. Then it was Showtime! First it was Francy and my turn with Orquesta Guayacan – Oirga, mira vea, which was so much fun.
Then Carlos and Francy did a spontaneous performance, which was just another level.
The last part of the show was the performance of Carlos, Didier and me dancing to the song Cuero Nama, which had a grand finale at the end.
Here is a video of the show with some reactions to watch if interested:
A gringo (what a foreigner is called in Colombia, but specifically referring to people from the US) dancing a salsa show in Cali, what do you think? The show was awesome, so much fun and supported by a full house of more than 50,000+ fans – I’m just kidding, a couple hundred.
My emotions after the show
I felt happy, proud and sad at the same time when the performance was over and the audience clapped in applause. I couldn’t believe that I did it. Francy and Carlos gave a final speech and then invited everyone to come onto the stage to dance together – beautiful moment.
This was the perfect finish to my time in Cali. All the training and pain I’d gone through had been released in the show and I was pretty sad to leave now. I even got goose bumps when writing about it – the feeling that this was the end of something magical. Dance salsa chicos ! Special thanks to all my friends that came to support me in the show – it really meant a lot to me. I will miss every single one of you and hope to see you all again ! Photography and videos are made by Monika and Gly – you two are the best :* A special thanks Specialmente uchas gracias a Francy, Carlos, Didier y Lisa para haber hecho un show con migo. Fue una gran CHIMBA !
My time was basically made by all the people that I have already mentioned but not to forget the others: Malte, Sophie, Bryony, Umut, Chow, Luis, the hangover crew, Victor, Gerrit, YEAH Cool Cultural Exchange event, the awesome people from the El Viajero hostel team and all the others that I may have forgot to mention.
The tattoo will make me never forget this precious time ! ESOO !
I TRAVEL FOREVER’s VIEW & RECOMMENDATION
I don’t know if you have realised it whilst scrolling through the photos but these were true moments of happiness. Do me one favor and don’t miss out on this unique opportunity ! Never ! The next day when I was about to leave, people signed this card for me with wishes, comments, acknowledgements that really brought me to tears before I hopped into the taxi on the way to the airport.
Dancing salsa in Cali, first you should know that everybody sweats; but it doesn’t matter because it’s about having fun and being happy, what you will find here in Cali. Let me know if you have any questions. Here I list the best place to learn salsa with the best dancer Carlos in Cali:
SALSA CLASSES WITH CARLOS IN CALI – SALSA PURA – Baile sin fronteras
So before you go, be aware of the risk that drags you back to Cali when coming here ! One time Cali, always Cali. ESOO !