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ISSUE 118 VOL 14 PUBLISHED 3/18/2005

Hot spots for hot dancing

By Anne Torkelson
Online Editor


Friday, March 18, 2005

With papers, labs and relationship dramas, we all know that college life can get stressful at times. One solution to this problem is salsa. No, not chips and dip, but dancing.

Salsa is a popular form of Latin American dance, characterized by the rhythms and melodies of the Caribbean, Cuba, Puerto Rico and Mexico. Salsa, like any type of dancing, is a fun and easy way to work out. Dancing combines both aerobic and anaerobic training and improves stamina, muscle strength, flexibility and coordination. Salsa dancing also puts less strain on the joints than higher impact aerobic exercises such as jogging.

The Twin Cities, only 30 minutes away, offers a wide variety of Latin music venues and salsa nights perfect for the student schedule and budget.

First Avenue & 7th Street Entry’s Thursday salsa night is casual and inexpensive. Advantages of First Ave. are its 18+ entry, free admission before 11 p.m. with a student ID, student crowd and spacious dance floor. One disadvantage is that a DJ, not a live band, provides the music.

For only a few dollars more, grab some ribs and a partner at Famous Dave’s BBQ. Dancing at Famous Dave’s takes place Tuesday nights 9 p.m. to 12 a.m., and boasts music by Sensación Latina. Cover is a mere $2 and a parking lot is nearby.

The casual environments, high student population and low costs of First Ave. and Famous Dave’s make them great places for beginners to try out their moves.

For more dancing, salsa-seekers should check out Conga Latin Bistro and Times Bar & Café. One draw of Conga, besides its vibrant décor featuring a multicolored conga drum mural, is that it holds salsa dancing every night of the week. Another attraction of Conga is its recently lowered entry age from 21 to 18. Live bands play on Wednesday and Thursday nights, and DJs spin the latest in Salsa, Merengue, Cumbia, Spanish Rock and house music on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

At Times Bar & Café, dancers can dance for free from 9:30 p.m. to 12 a.m. every Thursday. Surrounded by the café’s dark mahogany walls, plush green carpeting and high tin ceilings, the 10-piece orchestra Salsa del Soul provides the music.

Dancers looking for a slightly older or more upscale crowd should try The Quest or Mpls. Café. Expect to see women in dresses and heels – jeans and tennis shoes are not allowed. The Quest opens its doors at 9 p.m. every Wednesday evening for Noche de Salsa. Cover is $10, but this fee pays for live music beginning at 10 p.m., one of the largest dance floors in the Twin Cities, an atmosphere of serious dancers and complimentary lessons beginning at 9:30 pm. However, while The Quest formerly welcomed those 18 and older, it is now 21+.

Though Mpls. Café’s cover charge at $5-6 is cheaper than that of The Quest, the restaurant claims just as classy a crowd and also provides free valet parking. Dancers, as long as they adhere to the dress code, can shimmy to Sensación Latina from 9:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday nights.

Salsa nights take place at other popular restaurants, such as Babalu’s and El Nuevo Rodeo Night Club and Restaurante. Babalu’s, noted for its “sexy cabana vibe” by Mpls./St. Paul Magazine, offers Caliente Salsa on Wednesdays with music by Salsa del Soul or the Latin Sounds Orchestra, and Salsa Saturdays with music by Salsa del Soul, the Latin Sounds Orchestra or Zafiero, a 10-piece group whose sound is complimented by two female Puerto Rican singers. Babalu’s small dance floor is forgivable in light of its chic atmosphere.

El Nuevo, the self-proclaimed heartbeat of Minnesota's Latino community, hosts live music by the Orquesta Sabor Tropical or Sensación Latina five nights a week, 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Space is not an issue at this nightclub, which covers 20,000 square feet and features three hardwood dance floors.

Other venues include Fhima’s French Mediterranean restaurant, where Sensación Latina plays Friday and Saturday nights from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Tiburon Caribbean Bistro, which features Salsa del Soul Friday nights from 10:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. and La Noche, with music by Zafior from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. every Saturday.

So, whether the only salsa you know of consists of tomatoes, onions and chili peppers in a spicy sauce, or you became a dancer-turned-pro during your Interim in Ecuador, take a night off and check out the salsa scene that the Twin Cities have to offer.

And if there are any fellas out there who want to dance, I know a cute girl with a sassy green dress looking for a partner …





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