Salsa scenes

Discussion in 'Salsa' started by wildbill20056, Jul 1, 2010.

  1. wildbill20056

    wildbill20056 New Member

    So just out of curiosity, do the good folks on the boards think you can create/build a salsa scene in any city/town assuming a reasonable sized population?

    Or do you feel that some places are just salsa defying zones?

    To give a little context, I am a long time salsa dancer/amateur promoter in Scotland and have recently settled to work in Dundee, Scotland's 4th city.

    There have been classes/events run here for several years (I even helped set them up back in the day but moved to far away to assist till now.) Numbers have fluctuated widely, from sold out band nights, to dance nights with a bare minimum attendance. The lady who runs these events, who is a superb teacher and gives all her profits to charity, feels Dundee is just anti salsa.

    I however don't agree, I feel it has been a matter of promotion and event set up. What do I think has held things back?

    1) The venue for the 'regular' salsa night has shifted alot. Now I know salsa clubs are prone to being moved along by owners, but this can change month to month, never mind larger blocks. I feel this breaks up routine and familiarity to the crowd.

    2) Beginner's classes stop during summer effectively choking off the improvers and up classes which then fall away till summer ends.

    3) The only available evening events tend to be pretty hardcore 'salsa' interspersed with bachata and cha cha. Now I know this works great for a dedicated crowd, but when you want to build it up I really feel you need to be more accessible. Throw in latin pop, merengue, that sort of thing that those new on the night can enjoy too.

    4) The music played as is, tends to be repetitive and all pretty much timba. No one in the 'scene' is exposed to the variety of salsa out there and it seems a very 'tricks centric' rather than 'music centric' scene. This makes it a bit cliquey and tends to isolate the salsa crowd from new people etc.

    So I've got together with a local nightclub to launch a new regular latin night monthly. How will I try to buck the trend of limited salsa appeal?

    1) Heavy, professional promotion making sure to hit a wide demographic.
    2) Lots of great salsa, but also new people friendly merengue and pop.
    3) Offering deals to student dance/international societies to make their attendance much more affordable on their budgets!
    4) Having a beginner's class each evening to keep salsa accessible to the new people so they can be hooked.

    I'm pretty hopeful of making it a success. There is a huge ceroc scene in the area and it's also the city housing the scottish national dance company and scottish school of contemporary dance. It's a dance city. Heck zumba is doing great. I think that if you can reach out effectively to people, welcome them in and let them feel part of things from their first night then salsa can be a success just about anywhere.

    Thoughts?

    Will
     
  2. lorenzof

    lorenzof New Member

    My observations from the San Francisco area, where Salsa is the main night club partner dance. And for full disclosure, I have been away from that scene for the last six years.

    Three elements seem to be important to the success of a venue, and all three needed to be in place.

    1) A beginner AND more advanced class early in the evening. The instructor needs to be engaging, and always have new figures to teach.

    2) Scheduling consistency. It's got to happen at least once a week, weekly. If people have to check a calendar, you're doomed.

    3) A good DJ that knows how to read the crowd, or, failing that, a good mix of timba, salsa dura, romantica, columbian, old school, etc. How much merengue, bachata, and cha cha you throw in is going to depend on your crowd.

    The teacher gets them to come in the first place. The schedule keeps them from having to think about when to come. The DJ keeps them there when the teacher is done.

    If I read your post right, you are try to arrange a one time per month salsa night? I think you would have better luck with a weekly schedule, as it allows people to get into a routine, rather than having to think about what they are going to do that evening. I've seen people filling up dance studios, with no alcohol available, because they know the class and the following dance is there weekly, and they like the teacher.
     
  3. wildbill20056

    wildbill20056 New Member

    Well the trouble with a weekly event, at least at the moment, is that venues here have little to not experience of such events. They also have the standard wariness over bar takes.

    Really this first big night is a proof of concept to the owners as much as anyone else. Maybe after getting a good rep something weekly could be arranged off the back of it though.

    Plus in this city there is just a lack of suitable venues in a central position that aren't crazy to find or in areas people would be dubious of coming into.

    I might be able to get a much smaller venue for dance evenings weekly however and use that as the regular bridge between the big monthly parties.

    Coupled with that I really don't want to go into rivalry with the existing latin events, however small scale as they run entirely for charity etc.
     
  4. lorenzof

    lorenzof New Member

    I think the venues in Northern California make a lot of their money off the cover charges.

    The problem with monthly is that there is not enough continuity. Leaving aside the issue of getting people to come more than once, I think that is the sort of event that works if you already have an established Salsa community, I don't think it's enough to create it.

    I don't understand the concern about competition with existing latin events. If you are trying to grow the community, it shouldn't be a zero-sum game, should it? Maybe something you can do is look at the existing events, help them grow their communities, in exchange for mentioning the event you are putting on.
     
  5. wildbill20056

    wildbill20056 New Member

    Indeed well with the cover charge thing, tis tricksy to make enough off the door to satsify promoters/band charges etc if the bar isn't performing well. So ideally you want to have a big enough mix of people in attendance to keep everyone happy.

    Well we have a smallish salsa community as it is, but I think it really isn't promoted enough or in the right way so while numbers go up and down, retention is pretty poor.

    With regards to your last point, that's exactly what I'm doing really. I'm deliberately scheduling away from their existing, if small scale, events and offering to promote the other events in return for similar promotion on their parts.

    --

    Why do I think this could work? Well before in Aberdeen, the 3rd city of Scotland, salsa/latin dancing had totally died out for about 6 months. A Colombian friend and I put together a huge launch at a big venue and got a few hundred in the door that night. From there a host of others started up classes and others nights, and now it's a very big, healthy scene. It did however, come from nothing and start up again with a flagship BIG monthly event.

    I think the key when you don't have a huge 'salsa' community and limited possible venues is to make a flagship event which invites everyone in. From there you can hook them on the music, dance and atmosphere. I would hope that I could feed any newcomers into the existing classes etc, so that they would benefit and in return retain them to build on at the big party nights.

    I think that when the only party night in town is hardcore salsa, bachata with nothing for those who don't know how to dance, it makes things a little inhibiting to newcomers. I know myself when I started it was merengue that gave me something I could instantly do, and latin pop something I could groove to with my new latin friends. In that time I got started with salsa and the rest is history.

    So I think there needs to be an 'in' for new people, especially those who don't know they want to dance till they see it and wouldn't have considered it except for that club night seeming like something cool and welcoming and not demanding that you are a pro dancer.
     
  6. barrefly

    barrefly New Member

    In my opinion, promoters don't create the scene as much as the congeal the scene.
    What really creates the scene is established succesful clubs that get the crowd in who want to dance. Everything else trickles down from/feeds off of this.
    A club's success depends on an attractive/popular clientele, great ambiance, lots of room/floor space, good food and spirits (?), great music, popular events etc.

    If you have a few million ($) to spare, you may be able to have an impact on Dundee's salsa scene.
     
  7. wildbill20056

    wildbill20056 New Member

    Barrelfly I really don't believe that can be entirely true.

    First off, I don't dispute for one moment the importance of a good venue.

    That said, if that were all that mattered, popular clubs the world over outside of the salsa 'homelands' wouldn't regularly struggle to make ends meet.

    Promoters, you must remember are often responsible for finding and establishing venues. So it's very difficult to distinguish the promoter from the venue in many cases.

    There is a very healthy salsa scene in all sorts of unlikely places in the UK and Europe usually in the absence of a dedicated club. Aberdeen has no dedicated salsa club, and yet the biggest regular latin night in Scotland started and remains there. That all came about from excellent promotion, choice of venue and superb DJ'ing.

    A club's success nearly always comes down to how much is taken over the bar on any given night. The perfect salsa venue for dancers isn't the perfect venue for club owners wanting to make a living however. In my opinion for real success you have to find the middle ground.

    ----

    Let me be plain I am entirely against the salsa dance scene that has become popular in some places which ignored the music, culture and social aspects in favour of just showing off on the dancefloor. It's sterile and I don't enjoy it, and it is usually the worst for dancers expecting everything for free with no outlay by themselves.
     
  8. toothlesstiger

    toothlesstiger Well-Known Member

    There is a big latino community in northern california, so there was already solid market for night-clubs playing latin music. Same applies to the other big Salsa markets in the US I am aware of. So perhaps I shouldn't try to apply my observations from that market to Dundee.

    But I will stick to the notion that it takes a few popular teachers to get a lot of non-latinos into salsa, at least. :)
     
  9. wildbill20056

    wildbill20056 New Member

    Well in reply I'd suggest that while the venue is a key part of the success of any salsa event, it really doesn't need to be an established 'salsa' club. If a perfect venue was all that was required, salsa 'clubs' wouldn't be struggling to do business the world over, and people wouldn't still be complaining that water drinking dancers don't make for good business.

    All around the world, outside of the 'homelands' of salsa hugely popular events take place in all sorts of venues, from clubs to function suites to community centres etc etc.

    Next you have to remember that promoters, more often that not, are responsible for finding venues, all the advertising, sourcing of teachers and DJ's etc. So the decisions and accumen of the promoter can be the keystone of any successful event.

    I think that teachers are much more important than having an established 'salsa' club. Here in Scotland we have a reasonable latino population living in Edinburgh. Consequently there are two latin clubs in that city which are pretty popular. The most popular salsa events however do not take place in these places.

    People seem much more likely to follow DJ's and teachers than be slavish to the venue I would say. If you can create the right atmosphere, welcoming to the totally new, satisfying to the experienced, and a great place to hang out even if you aren't going to be a dancefloor god, then I think you have a recipe for success.


    ----

    My own 'in' to salsa was through friends who took me along. I loved the music and the atmosphere and kept going, and it was months before I was involved in proper classes. However the atmosphere and music were the hooks. I think that can be replicated.

    ----

    I am also against the 'sterile' salsa scene which is prevailing in certain places, certainly in London from a UK perspective. You may not be aware but the UK was the first place where Salsa was made into a serious money making business. Sadly now you often find in London that the salsa 'dancers' hang out in one place, and the latinos in another.

    The 'dancers' want a big perfect dance floor, cheap entry, free water all night and socialising limited to their clique. The latinos and friends want a fun environment where you can enjoy company and the music and dancing.

    I am totally opposed to the 'sterile' dance scene and think that dancers who don't care for the music or the ethos of what they are involved in have missed the heart of the dance/s.
     
  10. wildbill20056

    wildbill20056 New Member

    I really don't think that a perfect venue automatically makes a great dance scene/night. Why? Well if that were the case then salsa clubs the world over wouldn't still be complaining about how hard it is to do good business off the back of water drinking freeloaders.

    For the record I am totally opposed to the 'sterile' salsa scene which has tended to grow up lately which is all about 'tricks' whilst being ignorant of bands, music, culture etc. I find this 'lot' to be responsible for the worst freeloading, expecting great venues for a small door fee and free water all night.

    I will agree with the point about teachers, and would add in DJ's to that too. In Edinburgh for example there is a large-ish latin community and two latin bars/nightclubs. However the most popular salsa nights do not take place there. Rather the dancers follow their favourite teachers/djs more often than not.

    I personally believe that for the sake of good business and a much more satisfying social atmosphere at latin dance events you need to keep the music central to the evening, and not just a backdrop to the dancers' showing off. You also have to play to suit everyone to bring in a wide range of people. Some will be dancers, some will go on to be dancers, and others will just like the atmosphere and find it a good place to hang out at.

    This will lead to better business at the bars, a more complete social experience for everyone and a crowd likely to want to turn up for more another time.
     

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