Step out to dance on salsa nights

01/30/2014 4:37 PM

01/30/2014 4:38 PM

Rachel Chinn swears that anyone can learn to move like Jennifer Lopez.

Okay, not really, but she can get you up and salsa dancing in an hour’s time.

“Oh yeah, anybody can,” the Wichita dance instructor said. “You can do a whole song with just the basic step and be just fine.”

For the past two months, Chinn and dance partner Dan Carro have been giving free hour-long group lessons to patrons of Oeno Wine Bar on Friday night. The sessions last from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m., after which DJ Frankie Tran spins music heavy on Latin beats.

Playa Azul, a Mexican restaurant in Old Town, also is getting into the act with Latin music nights on Saturday.

Chinn is an instructor at the Harry Reece Dance Studio, while Carro teaches at Care To Dance. Chinn also is choreographing the upcoming Wichita Grand Opera production of “William Tell.”

The idea for salsa nights at Oeno sprung up after another Old Town nightspot, Club Suede, closed its doors.

“Club Suede used to have a very successful Latin salsa night every Friday,” Chinn said. “It was a great mix of people. They were very much of the Latin community in Wichita that grew up learning those dances, but there were also people that maybe just learned a month ago. I had heard through the dance community that a lot of people sure missed that night.”

Neither a partner nor experience is necessary for people who want learn salsa, she said.

“We always go over the basic salsa stuff every week, like the underarm turn for the ladies,” she said. “Then we usually add one or two more steps after that. We try to stick with beginning level stuff unless we see the class we have that night is a more advanced class.”

Some other steps the pair teach have names like “back stop turn,” “cross body lead,” “right side pass to a reverse” and a man’s underarm turn.

Put them all together, and even beginners can look like they know what they’re doing, Chinn said.

Salsa, usually described as a mix of Puerto Rican and Cuban music and dance, sprung up in New York in the 1970s and seems only to become more popular each decade thanks to performers such as Lopez, her ex-husband Marc Anthony and the dancers on shows like “Dancing With The Stars.”

At Oeno, Chinn said, Tran “does a really good job” of mixing salsa music and other Latin genres such as merengue and bachata.

“They all have similar elements or patterns,” she said. “It’s the rhythm that changes, actually.”

Chinn said the songs appeal to a broad range.

“It’s just fun for that kind of past-college, just-entering-the-work-force crowd of late 20s, 30s, 40s and even 50s,” she said. “On a date, it’s a fun thing to do, or it’s way to meet people.”

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