We feature dance in many different forms this year – in January we went to a brilliant old school disco and this month we went to the re-launch of one of the most popular salsa club nights in South London. For many salsa aficionados, Thursdays in Battersea’s Clapham Junction meant Wessex House and Salsateca, but nearly two years ago the club closed down for a major refurb and upgrade. Recently re-opened as the DNA Club, last Thursday saw the return of this popular club night to its former home.
SLB were kindly invited by promoters and salsa school Salsateca to join the party. Salsateca was founded in 1992 by Elder Sanchez and is probably the biggest salsa school in London with regular classes and club nights in the City as well as the monthly El Bembe party night, which draws in hundreds of dancers from all over London. I have personal experience of their classes and believe they have some of the best teachers around. They cater for the full range of ability from absolute beginners up to advanced and the classes are attended by a friendly, mixed age group of enthusiasts.
The DNA Club is a great venue – I never went there in its old form so can’t make comparisons, but it has a really nice wooden floor- ideal for dancing, two rooms with a bar in each and some nice chill-out areas with comfortable seating. The night started with bachata lessons at 7.15 followed by salsa classes at 8.15. If you don’t know Bachata, it’s a dance from the Dominican Republic with a gentler rhythm and a more romantic style of music. It’s a very distinctive sound, particularly for the electric steel guitar riffs that accompany the songs, and it’s played at a lot of clubs as a nice contrast to salsa.
After the classes finished, resident DJ Johnny G got things moving with some great sounds and the dance floor filled up as more and more dancers rolled in. Then it was time for the live band, Orquesta Estelar, who play at various venues around London and comprise up to 25 musicians. An opening night would be nothing without a glitch and the band suffered a mic problem for the first few songs, but a hastily rigged-up replacement saw them get into their stride, playing some brilliant rhythms and packing the floor out. We also had a performance from the Mawu-Lisa dance group, which gave everyone something to aspire to! Then it was back to Johnny G who kept the party rocking till 1am. Overall, a brilliant night and one I can thoroughly recommend.
Salsa would be nothing without its music, whose origins are as complex and diverse as those of soul music, and it’s true to say it would be nowhere near as popular as it is today without one record label in particular – Fania, which is to salsa what Motown is to soul. If you don’t know much about salsa music, here are SLB’s top ten tracks to get you started, compiled by DJ Johnny G: 1. Chango Ta’Veni – Willie Rosario 2. Vale Mas un Guaguanco – Spanish Harlem Orchestra 3. Todo El Mundo Escucha – Bobby Valentin 4. A Prueba de Fuego – Grupo Niche 5. Te Pone la Cabeza Male – Los Van Van 6. Todo Tiene Su Final – Hector Lavoe 7. Que Humanidad – Manny Oquendo & Conjunto Libre 8. Marcando la Distancia – Manolito y Su Trabuco 9. Bravo de Verdad – Oscar D’Leon 10. Tumba Mabo – Sonora Poncena
Thursdays 7.15 – 1am Salsateca at the DNA Club 1, St John’s Hill SW11 1TN
PLEASE NOTE: DNA Club now CLOSED and Salsateca currently looking for a new S. London venue