Learning Abroad | Learning to Salsa in Medellín

Learning Abroad | Learning to Salsa in Medellín

You can’t go to Colombia and not take at least one Salsa class. When I close my eyes and think of Colombia the first thing that comes into my mind is the music. Music and dancing is an integral part of the Colombian culture. I swear Colombians come out of the womb doing salsa! The only way to fully experience life in this beautiful country is to take — at least — a few salsa classes and then go dancing! If you are visiting Medellin I have put together this guide to help you find the best spots to salsa in Medellin including where to practice your new skills dancing the night away.

 

Background

Although New York may have given birth to salsa — Cali in Colombia holds the title of world Salsa Capital and most of the major world competitions are held there and is the main genre of music played throughout the city. But this Cuban inspired dance style isn’t just danced in Cali, in fact, it is popular throughout the country. Especially in Medellin, where I found myself back in the dance studio and completely out of my depth.

Dancer traveling the world you say?

I’m a trained dancer and until I left the UK I was still working as a professional dancer. Hence the tagline “Dancer traveling the world…”. When I started this blog I had the idea that I would be learning different dance styles as I traveled… Well, it took me a year but I finally made a start!

In all honesty, I think me and dance needed some time apart. When something is your life, like dance is mine, sometimes you need time apart to really appreciate what you have.

In Guatemala I found Yoga. In Colombia I re-found dance.

Colombia made me want to dance.

From Reggaeton to Bambuco it’s impossible to spend any time in Colombia and not find yourself listening to music here. This is a country where it’s perfectly normal for someone to be walking down the road carrying a sound system blasting out music on their shoulder. Or to find yourself wandering the dirt streets in a coastal town and pass an old guy sat outside a tienda cerveza in hand, pumping out tunes. Normally from a sound system to rival any, you would find in a nightclub.

Colombians are noisy and they like to share their passion for music with everyone, whether you want to hear it or not!

Why learn to salsa in Colombia?

I learned to Salsa because I love dancing and I wanted to learn. But take yourself to any Salsa class in Colombia and it will be packed! Mostly with men… because let’s face it if you are a gringo in Colombia to stand any chance of competing with the Colombian men you are going to have to learn to dance.

Dancing in Colombia is a big part of life and Salsa is a social dance. You can go out any night of the week in Medellin and spend the night dancing Salsa and Bachata. My only regret was not learning sooner, I wasted so much time when I could have been dancing the night away!

Where to learn salsa in Medellín

Now that I’ve convinced you to learn Salsa in Medellin I’m going to convince you to pay for classes and skip the free ones. Here’s why:

The free classes are almost always very basic and the dance schools just use them as a way to get people in the door and sell them paid classes. Some people just go to the free classes each week. If you have a super tight budget you can do this, but in my experience, you aren’t going to progress as it will be the same class each week. Plus they are always packed so it’s impossible to even see the teacher. By all means take a free class, check out the school and teachers but then sign up for paid group or private classes.

I’m not easily impressed. I’ve taken several ‘free’ Salsa classes before and I even did a few privates in Guatemala but when I took a dance class at Dancefree as part of my Spanish School program with Toucan Spanish for the first time, I was impressed. Even their beginner’s class was challenging and I knew I had found my school.

Learning to Salsa at Dancefree

Dancefree offers a free evening class on a Thursday which is a good place to start if you are on a budget, but it is packed full of people. Group classes are only $15mil COP (as of March 2018) and if you are staying for four weeks you can pay for a monthly pass which will save you a lot of money!

The classes are much smaller, but the best bit is, they split the classes into three levels. Beginners, intermediate and advanced. That means you get to work in a smaller group with people at the same level as you. I can’t recommend these classes enough, I just wish I knew about them sooner!

They offer classes six days a week and alternate between Salsa and Bachata. I would recommend getting familiar with Bachata too as most clubs alternate between the two style of dance so it’s good to know both!

I actually decided to take private classes and after 14 hours over seven days — here is a little video of my progress:

What made Dancefree different for me was how professional they were. They take teaching seriously, I didn’t just learn steps. As well as my two male teachers I also have a fabulous female teacher Tatiana who I worked on styling. She helped me sort out my awful arms and got my hips moving! I had two male teachers Edison and Christian (in the film) so I was able to feel what it was like to dance with different partners.

 

Where to dance

Classes are an important part of learning Salsa and building your confidence. But to really learn you need to put your skills into practice on the dance floor in the bars and clubs! An easy way to ease yourself into this is to just stay on after the class at Dancefree. After each evening class, the bar stays open and you can dance until at least 11 pm (Thursday to Saturday until 4 am). If you want to get out of the dance school environment and ‘do like the locals do’ you do need to go where the locals go!

I have put together a little guide to help you find the best places to dance in Medellín any night of the week.

Monday

Dancefree has a Salsa class split into three levels (beginner, intermediate and advanced) with dancing after.

Tuesday

Dancefree has a Bachata class split into three levels (beginner, intermediate and advanced) with dancing after. I really recommend taking some Bachata classes too as many of the clubs play a mix of Bachata and Salsa music.
Eslabon Prendido has a salsa class at 7.30pm followed by dancing.

Wednesday

Son Havana has a free class every Wednesday.
Dancefree has a Salsa class split into three levels (beginner, intermediate and advanced) with dancing after.
Social Club has a paid Salsa class.
If you want pure Salsa, Wednesdays are great at Tibiri where you can dance from 10 pm to 2 am with no cover charge.

Thursday

Dancefree has their free class from 7 pm and dancing until 4 am many people stay and dance for a while before moving on to Skybar where they have a free class from 8 pm with dancing until 4 am.

Weekends

On a Friday and Saturday, you can pretty much dance anywhere in Medellin! Just walk down the street and listen for the music. Dance Free has an Intercambio language exchange followed by dancing until 4 am. If you want some space to do some shines and the chance to watch the teachers and experienced dancers then Social Club is a great place to start the night. It doesn’t get that busy so I would recommend moving on to Tibiri (otherwise known as ‘the sauna’) or Son Havanna after and ending the night there.

Final thoughts

If you are in Medellin and you don’t go out Salsa dancing at least once you are missing out on a huge part of Colombian culture. If you take dance classes and dance with locals you won’t just improve your dance skills. You are also going to be improving your Spanish skills as all of the classes I took were in Spanish.

To find a real cultural experience where you can mix with locals then Salsa is the key to the door. Take a few classes and go to some of the places I’ve suggested in this article. Dance the night away, meet some new friends and have a great time. Simple. Why wouldn’t you want to learn Salsa?

So, go dance Salsa, drink aguardiente and have fun!

PS. If you are looking for The Best Things to do in Colombia check this out!

 

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Learning to Salsa in Medellín

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2 Comments

  1. May 29, 2018 / 10:07 am

    Your description of Colombian cultural is so vivid! Salsa dancing in Medellin sounds like so much fun!

    • June 4, 2018 / 1:22 pm

      Thank you Emily. It is such a vibrant place I hope to get some of that across in my writing.

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