DiscoverSYR: Con Salsa
“Who here has seen Dirty Dancing?” asks Brian Bromka, the American salsa instructor du jour. I throw my hand into the air along with over half of his other 24 students, all of us standing awkwardly in the big room. “So you all know, ‘This is my dance space, this is your dance space, spaghetti arms,’ right?” he asks. With that, Bromka launches into a discussion of dance frame and helps the salsa novices learn the basics.
La Familia De La Salsa, the touring dance company Bromka formed in 2004, now focuses on teaching instead of performing. Bromka and friends teach beginner, intermediate, advanced, and cardio-salsa classes. I try the introductory course (no partner necessary) held every Friday night at Ballybay Pub in West Syracuse. Ballybay doesn’t exactly scream “salsa.” I pass through the tight bar area and the building opens up into a giant room with floor-to-ceiling wood paneling, and framed landscapes of Ireland on each wall. Just as the pub atmosphere starts making me think I hit the wrong dance party, Spanish music pours from large speakers.
Bromka makes us form two lines. We learn three basic salsa steps while he taps the beat (quick, quick, slow) on a pair of claves, percussion instruments made of sticks. We then join him in a circle for a traditional Cuban dance, Rueda de Casino, or “wheel of salsa,” which he uses for each introductory course. By the end of class, I’m swinging to the beat without missing a step. I sway to the left, and my new partner is Bromka. “You move very well,” he says to me. Then to the group, “I have to suck up to the journalist.”
Well, it worked. I ended up staying for Havana Nights, a salsa dance party La Familia holds every Friday after the introductory course. The lights turned down, the music got a little faster, a little louder, and couples of various skill levels took to the floor. I saw all different ages, races, shapes, and sizes—even some Syracuse University students and professors. “These are people from all walks of life that are getting thrown into this microcosm because of their desire to learn to dance,” says Bromka. “This is the melting pot of Syracuse, New York.”
La Familia De La Salsa is located at 550 Richmond Avenue, Syracuse, N.Y.