Salsa Classes in Buenos Aires at Cuba Mia Restaurant

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Salsa classes in Buenos Aires with Gregorio at Cuba Mia RestaurantI wasn’t sure if this was going to be another one of those leads that goes nowhere. I’m picky when it comes to dance classes, and I had been looking for a good salsa class in Buenos Aires forever. I had been to many, enjoyed them all, but still knew that something was lacking, and that “something” was focus on technique and the variation of rhythms. Finally, at Cuba Mia in Montserrat, I found the salsa class I had been looking for.

As a professional dancer of other things, I know the value of learning from the ground up and I’m in no rush as long the dance class feels organized. My body needs time to adjust to each level and my mind needs to register each advance with confidence.

So there I was, on the corner of Salta and Venezuela, in the depths of Monserrat, bordering Congreso and San Telmo, as recommended by a New York salsa dancer friend of a friend visiting Buenos Aires. It was a rainy, windy, sloppy night and I wasn’t sure what was to come. The neighborhood was daunting and the restaurant where the class was being held looked so dark inside the first set of double glass doors that I wondered if anything was going on at all. But I am bold, especially when it comes to finding a new heart’s desire, so I let the wind push me in and there I was.

Cuba Mia restaurant holds cuban-style salsa classesBehind a second set of doors, the class was in full swing. ‘Gregorio de Cuba‘, his voice booming over the music, was commandeering a room stuffed with salsa-dancers-to-be as they moved to the right, moved to the left, turned, and turned again, moving their hips and shimmying to the relentless and subtle complexity of the Salsa beat. The DJ upstairs was turning up the volume, hair was whipping about, and the guys were a-sweat. It all looked pretty damn authentic.

I paid, put my things in a corner by the bar, and jumped in. The steps at first were easy to follow. The salsa rhythm is one I know and I can always follow the basics, which we were doing, every which way. At once Gregorio screamed, “only the hips, stop moving your arms” and I realized that I was truly in a class that was “puro Cubano,” unlike so many of the other classes I’d attended here where it was more about ‘show’. What had I been thinking all those years I lived in Miami, so close to Cuba and not searching out a class like this?

Buenos Aires salsa classes at Cuba MiaThe salsa music stopped at Gregorio’s imperious command and he began explaining the differences between Salsa, Son, Mambo, and Cha Cha Cha. He pointed out and analyzed the different sounds inside the music, the Tumbadora doing its “and one”, the cow bell defining its own rhythm, the scraping of the Guiro (that large, dried gourd accompanied by a stick) and the relentless Claves keeping rhythm and guiding the dancers’ feet. All of these different elements, so essential for understanding when to step, when to pause, what to accent, and how to move, became more audible as we listened to the various rhythms.

We then began the exercises that I would come to know so well. Changing from Salsa to Son to Mambo in a heartbeat… going into Cha Cha Cha and pausing dramatically, like holding one’s breath, only to find the top of the beat for joining in again.

We split up into groups, me with the beginners of course, and began to put the knowledge into greater play. The women lined up opposite the men to begin the discourse of coupledom. It was pure bliss.

Gregorio de CubaUnlike Tango, a serious dance that tests the interplay between men and women with its refined sensuality and delicacy of response, Salsa is a game of provocation and fun. In Gregorio’s salsa class, we learn to play with the men as they play with us. At the drop of a hat, Gregorio yells for us to change partners, and we do. Here is a different body, another type of lead, a sure smile… we meet, we fall into the groove, we’re turned and spun and then we’re on to the next in line.

As I improved, I moved into the intermediate level, all the time jealously eyeing the advanced students and the intricacy of their moves – the variety of turns, never letting go of their partners hands, the amount of steps with incredible names that everyone seemed to know, for once they were yelled out, they were done with no thought.

Tornillo, Enchufe, Sombrero, Dile que no, Dame una, Adios, Setenta, Vacilala! Each move called by Gregorio, with the guys following each call and the women keeping their arms loose and tractable, their eyes on each partner, and their legs willing to maintain the ever present beat. They were dancing the circle dance called Rueda de Casino, similar to the American square dance, with a caller calling out each move. With the constant rotation of partners as the circle spins and pulsates, Rueda is a whirlwind of ecstatic movement where the beat remains constant as the turns become more and more complex.

I was learning all about this, finally from the ground up and was beginning to feel secure with what I was soaking in. It wasn’t going to be left to chance anymore, with me imitating the movements instead of really feeling them. I was getting to the place where this dance could almost feel organic.

In the last few weeks I’ve indulged myself and moved to the more advanced class. Or perhaps I should say, I’ve decided to challenge myself by moving up, which is what I need to do. I fumble and lose the rhythm when an intricate pattern is thrown my way, but I’ve learned to follow, and follow I try, with a laugh and a toss of my hair when I don’t quite get it. And when I arrive in the Rueda to dance for a brief amazing instant with Gregorio or one of his assistants, I’m in heaven as I’m expertly guided from one turn to the next, feeling like I’m on fire.

Almost best of all, the people are so welcoming. Everyone is there to have a good time. No one takes themselves too seriously. We stay after class and practice what we’ve learned or sit by the bar, watching. It’s a little bit of Cuba right in the heart of Buenos Aires, and the only thing left for me to say is “Hay, que rico!!!!”

Salsa Classes at Cuba Mia

Cuban salsa and rueda with Gregorio de Cuba
Salta 508, corner with Venezuela
Montserrat, Buenos Aires
Tuesdays, Thursdays, Sundays: 7 and 9 PM
4382-1465/3427
Cuba Mia Website

8 Comments

It sound like you had a wonderful experience. I have a couple of friend down in Buenos Aires. that have been looking to learn. I have to email them the information! sound like a lot of fun.
Todd

Pablo on March 22, 08

This is great information, thanks Michele. I am from Buenos Aires, but I’ve been living abroad and the last time I went to visit I found places with the exact same problems you mention in your article.
I will certainly attend to the lessons and perhaps we get to meet in action.
Best
Pablo

Chloe Prams on May 13, 08

Thanks Michele for taking the time to write this information.
Really good post and enjoyed reading it. keep up the good work.

Adult Ühler on May 28, 08

Hi. I’m from the UK and somehow stumbled upon your post while looking for information about salsa dancing. I have been thinking about taking it up for a while and after reading your article I think I definitely will. Thanks for the inspiration 🙂

Jose on August 17, 08

Hi!
Cuba Mia is a great place to dance cuban salsa in Buenos Aires.
If you need to learn dance, must go to Abel Acosta (cuban) every Saturday in Club Salsa y sabor in Cesar Diaz 2451.
Abel is dj in Cuba mia, and dance excelent!
If you need more information contact me.
bye!

Mark on August 22, 08

Hi, I plan to go to Buenos Aires in September and I almost feel guilty that I want to learn Salsa instead of Tango. I checked out the website and I am a bit surprised that the prices for the classes are up to par with what I pay here in the US. I was hoping that I could take private classes but if they are as expensive as they are here ($70 +) then I won’t take them.

Fred on November 30, 08

Hello,

i was in the Salsa classes by Gregorio in the cuba Mia Club, but in don’t have the same impression. NO explication you have to follow the group.Certainly Gregorio is a very good dancer, but without capacity to transfer his knowledge.For Privat lessons you have to go by Richard & Faby in beuenos Aires.

Lori Field on April 11, 10

Michelle, would love to contact you. It’s Lori Field (Lori and Marty from the Llamaheads) Let me know how to contact you if you so desire…xL.

ps Just love seeing the pic of you dancing.

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