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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, October 4, 2002

Hot rhythms call out to dancers of varied skills at Salsa After Dark

By Derek Paiva
Advertiser Staff Writer

Sharlene Dockrey and dance partner Emil Espiritu, move to the brassy, percussive charms of the salsa music during Rumours' Salsa After Dark night on a recent Thursday.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

Ray Cruz wasn't about to let us leave Salsa After Dark without sampling his dance floor.

Along with Rod Moreno, one of two superbly versed salsa deejays at the long-running event, Cruz had seen my Night Stuff partner and me couching and taking notes on the perimeter of his booth for too long.

"You gonna dance, right?" he asked Dawn and me, while clapping his hands vigorously, and moving his body to the swift tempo of a merengue. If I needed an easy beat to feel out my incredibly amateurish moves with, the Elvis Crespo track that was coaxing a good chunk of people to the dance floor was his recommendation.

The only thing that dragged us off the floor a half-hour, several merengues and a couple of cha-chas later was a welcome drop in tempo and the lure of some long-abandoned ice-cold drinks. Mission accomplished, Cruz couldn't help but beam proudly at us.

"You goin' up again, right?" he asked, as I fanned myself with my notebook. Sure, Ray.

Salsa After Dark provided a terrific scene where salsa dance pros, amateurs and folks finding the music's brassy, percussive charms irresistible could comfortably co-exist and have fun.

From couples in their late 20s testing the street value of their salsa lessons for the first time to seasoned professionals in their 50s twirling each other like teenagers, the diversity in age and salsa expertise on the night we stopped by was among the event's many charms.

I was told by promoter Nancy Ortiz that our 9 p.m. arrival coincided with Salsa After Dark's second shift. A mostly older (40s and above) pau hana crowd generally files in from 5 to 8 p.m. for free pupu and complimentary Salsa 101 lessons from Roberto Vargas Jr. before bailing early. A diversely-aged mass of more polished dancers arrives after 9 p.m. to shut down the place.

Polished crowd or not, we still found enough couples on the dance floor with as much salsa expertise as Dawn and me (she's had a few lessons; I've had zero) to make us feel we weren't upsetting anyone's mojo by being there. Those who really knew their stuff kindly allowed us our space, as well as the opportunity to steal from them as many moves as we could manage.

Though the club was still filling with people near 11 p.m., a few couples managed to find space in the aisles and between tables to practice moves before hitting the floor. A few others gladly accepted free, impromptu lessons from a couple of instructors at Salsa After Dark with their students.

And us? With space on the dance floor getting a bit harder to come by and one final wake-up-call for work looming before the weekend, we managed to sweet-talk our bodies into 20 more minutes of salsa before finally calling it quits.

We also promised Cruz a return trip — without the notebook.

Got a night spot or club event we should check out? You can teach Derek Paiva at 525-8005 or dpaiva@honoluluadvertiser.com.

• • •

What: Salsa After Dark

Where: Rumours Nightclub, Ala Moana Hotel, 410 Atkinson Drive, 955-4811

When: 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Thursdays

Cover: $5

Under 21 OK?: No

Age of crowd: Mid 20s to late 50s

Dress code: No slippers, open-toe sandals, athletic apparel, tank tops (on men), cut-offs

Attire we saw: Mostly dressy. On men: dress shirts, aloha shirts, solid tees, sweaters, dress pants, jeans. On women: dresses, blouses, jeans, pants.

Our arrival/departure: 9 p.m./11 p.m.

What we drank: Vodka Alexander, bartender's iced tea ($10.50)

Peak crowd while there: 250 plus.

Queue?: No

Sample music artists: Gilberto Santa Rosa, Puerto Rican Power, Elvis Crespo, Tito Puente, Celia Cruz

Dancing?: Yes