I love salsa!

Corinna Araneta Lopa
Human rights advocate by day; salsa dancer by night.

SALSA LOVERS UNITED. The author (3rd from left) with her salsa buddies. Photo by Corinna Araneta Lopa.

MANILA, Philippines – Salsa is all about Latin music and dancing! 

Salsa means many things to many people … mambo, timba, LA Style/On 1, NY Style/On 2, salsa cubana, salsa venezolana, salsa colombiana, rueda de casino, guaguanco, orishas, pachanga,  and salsaton … 

Alongside salsa are various other Latin dances that we love to dance, too: merengue, bachata, reggaeton, cumbia, chachacha, bachaton, bachatango, vallenato, merengueton … the list goes on and on. But whatever it is you’re dancing, the music moves you to swing your hips, isolate your waist, bend your knees, and do those “quick, quick, slow” steps in sync with the clave!

Salsa love affair

My love affair with salsa started in 2006 in Bangkok, Thailand, at a club called Fogo Vivo. I found it curious that at the end of the day, my colleagues — human rights defenders mostly — would be at the edge of their seats, ready to dash out of the conference room and onto the salsa clubs of Bangkok. 

So it was on one of those nights that I tagged along with them, and found myself mesmerized with the music and all the salsa dancing before me. The mix of claves, bongos, timbales, and congas captured my Latin heart. I found myself foregoing all the usual after-hours shopping and going for all the free dance classes that were being offered at the salsa clubs.

I then feverishly downloaded salsa music into my ipod, and burned CDs to share with friends and other “beginners.” I discovered Latino musical greats like Gilberto Santa Rosa, Tito Nieves, Joe Arroyo, Grupo Niche, Los Van Van, Tito Puente, Charanga Habanera, Paulito FG, Fruko y sus Tesos, Julito Voltio, Jerry Rivera, Marc Anthony, Hector Lavoe, Manolito y su Trabuko, Celia Cruz, Oscar d’Leon, Ruben Blades, Andy Montanez, Charlie Cruz, Victor Manuelle, La India, Juan Luis Guerra, Elvis Crespo, DLG, Orquesta Canela, Huey Dunbar, El Gran Combo, Jose Lugo y su Orquesta, and Frankie Ruiz, among others. 

SALSA LINE DANCE. The dance is as hot and spicy as the dip. Photo by Corinna Araneta Lopa.

New world, new friends

Salsa has opened a whole new world of people to me, and has brought me some of the dearest friendships I have had the privilege of having; men and women with the same passion for the music and the dance. 

Paired with social networking, salsa is building a global community of salseros that is tightly networked. Salsa meet ups — both local and international — are a way of life for us. We come together with our salsa buddies for the pleasure of dancing together and having fun. We look forward to weekly salsa nights or noches Latinas for our salsa fix.

Others live for salsa festivals and salsa congresses, for the sheer pleasure of performing, competing in contests, or having the rare opportunity of dancing with salsa champions and teachers. International salsa vacations, salsa cruises, and salsa beach parties are a league of their own!

Salsa in Asia

Owing to my work in South East Asia in the field of human rights advocacy, I have had the privilege of dancing salsa in quite a number of countries in our region. Hands down, the best salsa dancers can be found in Hanoi, Singapore, and Kuala Lumpur! Bangkok and Singapore, being travel hubs, would have the most visiting salseros from Europe, West Asia, and Latin America. 

Sadly, while Filipinos also have a Latin heart and soul, many of Manila’s salseros have yet to break away from the strong influence of ballroom dancing, and need to nurture the humility to learn salsa, as well as unlearn latin ballroom. 

DANCERS BARE ALL. "Dance is the poetic baring of the soul through motion." - Scott Nilsson. Photo by Coriinna Araneta Lopa.

Snob story

Like all things human, salsa is not always nice and pleasant. One can get stepped on, get black and blues, and cracked toe nails! One could also encounter nasty and inebriated partners. There are salsa snobs, and there are salsa snobs! Beginners can get pretty disheartened when advanced or intermediate dancers are not patient enough to dance with them. 

Others can get pretty territorial about their dance space, insisting on dancing in columns (which doesn’t leave much space for Cuban style salsa). Others (performer types, especially) tend to forget that they are in a small salsa club and not in a ballroom, and therefore should calibrate their steps and hand movements. I have witnessed some rather big egos with superiority complexes in different salsa communities, to the point where they think they are better in salsa than Latinos. 

There’s also some tough, underhanded competition among dance teachers, dance schools, dancers and performers, Latin DJs, proponents of different salsa styles, organizers of noches latinas, salsa festivals and salsa congresses; they divide rather than unify the community of salsa dancers. In some, the drive for the perfection of the salsa technique has also somehow sadly alienated the Latino community from the community of salsa dancers.

Salsa happy

I am fascinated by this world of salsa, and I find that I like to learn all the dance genres and be good at each one.

But, I am “salsa happy” when I have the privilege of dancing with a home-grown Latino (not one who comes via NY, Miami or LA, nor via Europe), one who was taught how to dance salsa by his abuelita  or his mamita, who sings with his eyes closed, while he dances very simply (no twirls and dips), and holds me close to his heart. –


Salsa/Noches Latinas in Manila:

Tuesdays (by Prodigy Mambo), 10 PM – 1 AM, Chololo’s Grill, Unit 10, Greenhills Town Center, #2 Granada Street, Quezon City

Wednesdays, 10 PM – 1 AM, Manteca! At M Café, Greenbelt 4, Makati City

Thursdays (by Salsa Fanatics Entertainment), 10 PM – 1 AM, La Dolce Vita, Polaris Street, Bel Air, Makati City

Saturdays (by Salsa Fanatics Entertainment), 10 PM – 1 AM, Chihuahua Mexican Grill, Makati Avenue, Makati City

Sundays, 6-10 PM, Manteca! At M Café, Greenbelt 4, Makati City


Salsa classes with Prodigy Mambo’s Jonathan Picayo (Mobile +639063058690, +639178350331): 

Mondays and Wednesdays 

Beginners – 8:30-9:30 PM, Basic steps / Timing / Drills
Intermediate – 9:30-10:30 PM, Styling / Spins / Footwork

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