By Johnny Johnson

Many local salsa dancers often wonder why some salsa dancers love to travel to other cities to experience other salsa environments. As a native Chicago salsa dancer, I have experienced many benefits from traveling to various cities to do Salsa. These experiences have exposed me to many levels of dancing, performing and teaching. Exposure to these aspects of salsa has helped with my progression as a salsa dancer in many ways.

Like many dancers, my journey through Salsa started at a local dance studio. I began taking classes several times a week with the goal of being able to dance at an intermediate-level at the local salsa clubs. After taking classes and dancing regularly at the local Salsa clubs, I began to meet other people who shared my interest in Salsa dancing. Eventually my network of Salsa friends grew and I began to learn more about the Salsa Culture. I remember when the Detroit Salsa Congress took place, many of my salsa friends traveled to attend this event. At the time it seemed a little strange that my friends chose to travel to Detroit to do Salsa when Chicago had a salsa event almost every night of the week. I had no idea what a Salsa Congress entailed and why everyone got so excited about it. (From L to R: Kelvin, Betto, me, and Gordon at The Charlotte Salsa Congress 2004)

After taking a year of lessons, I eventually joined a Salsa Dance Company and although I never anticipated doing Salsa outside of Chicago, I knew that joining a dance company would expose me to many aspects of Salsa. After several months of training and practicing, our group eventually performed at the Chicago Salsa Congress. This event was my first exposure to Salsa performers, dancers and teachers from all around the country. During this event, I met people from all over the country that shared my passion for Salsa and my friends and I danced all weekend until our bodies ached in pain. My passion for Salsa grew tremendously after this event and from that point on I knew that I would begin seeking “Salsa in Foreign Places.”

One of my first major Salsa trips was to the LA Salsa Congress. Although I initially went to perform, I anxiously anticipated meeting Salsa Dancers from all over the world. The LA Congress was a huge event where dancers from all walks of life gathered in a single location to learn, perform, and dance salsa. I remember dancing all night to live performances from Ray Baretto, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Richie Ray and Bobby Cruz. The overall experience was breath-taking. I saw some of the greatest dancers from all over the world, which kept me in awe the whole weekend. I made friends with fellow salsa dancers from Australia, Japan, England and Toronto. I danced on one and two with dancers that did not speak English. This convinced me that Salsa is more than just a dance; it was a cultural connection and universal language. These experiences forever changed my mentally about Salsa and caused me to continue to seek “Salsa in Foreign Places.”

Although I have only danced Salsa for approximately three years, I have traveled to LA, New York, North Carolina, DC, Chicago, Houston and Detroit for various Salsa Events. These events have not only contributed to my overall growth as salsa dancer, but they have increased my passion for the Salsa culture. My network of Salsa friends now exceeds my city, state, and country. I truly believe that a salsa dancer must experience a variety of salsa environments if they plan to improve their dance ability, overall perception of salsa, and passion for the Salsa Culture as whole. Although I have experienced a variety of Salsa environments, I greatly anticipate traveling to new places and gaining new experiences. I encourage any individual who is serious about growing as a Salsa dancer to do the same.