[Dance] Shall We Salsa?


If you've ever dreamed of gliding across the dance floor like Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers, you're not alone. Growing up on those old black-and-white musicals on TV made me long to be the graceful dancer on the screen. Later, I wanted to be fiery and sexy Rita Moreno in "West Side Story," demure and sexy Olivia Newton-John in "Grease" and just-filled-with-lust Jennifer Grey in "Dirty Dancing." Whew. Alas, I am merely someone who can and will do the Electric Slide, just as soon as I hear the music and can make my way to the dance floor. Two left feet and no partner, that's me.

Never fear, for all who are in the same boat as I, dance instructor Mike Day can turn those feet into proper dancing ones. He's got over 20 years experience, with ballroom dancing as his specialty, but Day told me, "I've added salsa and swing because they're what's hot today." And for salsa class, there's no partner required.

Salsa Sundays are at Repeat Performance Dance Studio, 2088 Main Street, Madison, with Beginners at 3 p.m. and Intermediates at 4 p.m. Curious and certainly leery of looking inept, I drove up there one Sunday with one thing in mind—finding out just how much salsa one could dance without a partner. Day's studio assistant and dance partner Lisa Lathem greeted me with a smile as I entered the studio, a place where during the week children take ballet. The hour I spent in that brick-walled room, complete with a mirrored wall, was so delightful that I stayed to watch the intermediates, too, and a young couple's private ballroom lesson after that.
Day's students arrived—all ages, races and sexes—full of smiles and excitement at another lesson or a bit of anxiety, for the first-timers. Some come for the dance, some for the exercise and some for the chance to socialize, Lathem told me. Once the class started, Day demonstrated the basic salsa step, calling out in time what the students should be doing. He took my hand, got me up off the bench along the wall and led me to the line of dancers. Along with everyone else, I followed him, stepping forward and backward as he called the steps.

Once the students were comfortable dancing alone, Day moved down the line, dancing with women who had no partner while Lathem did the same thing with the men. Those beginners swayed their hips to the music, stepped through the turns and smiled—thoroughly pleased with themselves.

Day also teaches on Mondays from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Hinds Community College—swing, salsa and ballroom dancing—this semester and next. The lessons are $10 per session, with $5 going to the American Cancer Society. First Tuesdays at Banana Joe's Island Party at Headliners, 6107 Ridgewood Road, Day teaches a class starting at 7 p.m., followed by a party from 8-10 p.m. "I'm the DJ in the boat for two hours," Day said. The music is nightclub style, with a mix of Latin, ballroom, country & western, swing and slow dance. Then, each month Day's Thursday class focuses on a different dance, starting with the first Thursday. Held at Dance Connection, 306 N. Bierdeman Road, Pearl, the night starts at 7 p.m. with the lesson, followed by a practice party from 8-10 p.m. where the dancers can practice what they've just learned plus other popular dances from prior classes—all for $10 each. Information about all of Day's classes except Hinds is available by calling 956-4138—call 857-3531 for Hinds. And Day's brand new Web site is msdancedoctors.com.

And you can tune into WLBT's Midday Mississippi on Tuesdays and see the segment where Day's teaching dance steps to Dawn Russell.


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