What types of dance spring to your mind when the word ‘ballroom dance’ is mentioned? Perhaps you see elegant gowns, sharp suits, and sensual movements. Latin dance is all of that and more. They are linked by their origins in Latin America and their passionate rhythms and performances.
The energy of Latin dances like Salsa, Tango, Rumba, Mamba, and Merengue, which have already dominated dance floors in America and Europe, is now enthralling Dhaka residents. While these dances seldom adorn the elite clubs and hotels, people often don’t know where to turn to for learning, performing and enjoying these dance forms. That’s where Havana Salsa, a community for those who wish to learn, practice, perform or simply dance socially, comes in.
Abdul Karim Siraji, aka AKS, the founder of Havana salsa, got enamoured by RnB and Hip Hop while growing up in Dubai and Mumbai and soon, got introduced to Latin dance styles and festivals. He trained under Kaytee Namgyal and performed with team Salsa India at the Blue Frog, Mumbai, India in 2008. Moving to Dhaka, he turned his inspiration into reality through Havana Salsa, a dance studio that currently offers a fusion of LA and Cuban style Salsa, Moderna Bachata & Urban Kizomba.
It holds three batches from Friday to Sunday with each day dedicated to Salsa, Bachata, and Kizomba. Not only that, the passion of the team to encourage more people to enjoy Latin Dances is evident by the free trial sessions it holds on Fridays for those who wish to test the waters before diving in.
“I wanted to bring the international Salsa party vibe to Dhaka city. We organised our first Havana Salsa Night on 21st November 2019 at Hotel Sarina. Being a professional DJ we also held the first open to all ‘Live DJ’ Latin Night at SAAVA Rooftop,” mentioned AKS on his vision with the unique venture.
The community of Havana Salsa
While the dance form is not typically learned and enjoyed by many in Bangladesh, its beauty is garnering attention and Havana Salsa is growing in number. As AKS proudly shared, “When we started Havana Salsa, we had about 40 to 50 guests and currently we have more than 300 members. So far we have organised more than 20+ Latin nights and performed 8 live shows at various venues.”
As the venture gained popularity, it saw growing demand for dance lessons, especially after the lockdown. The Salsa and Bachata training courses they had started with merely 4 students grew to accommodate 10 pupils per batch.
“With over 15 years as a social dancer, DJ, and event producer, we at Havana Salsa have focused on providing quality Latin events, socials, and workshops to everyone,” said AKS on what he believes sets Havana Salsa apart in the market. A typical workday for the team is where they have some amazing memories while rehearsing for the performances together.
Festivals and special days with Havana Salsa
The Latin Dance forms are most celebrated during colourful festivals and celebrations. The team of Havana Salsa wanted to bring a taste of the Latin Dance festival to Bangladesh and after a lot of hard work, Havana Salsa organised the first Latin Dance Festival on the 17th of June 2022 at the Jamuna Future park.
“We had approximately 300 people who attended an all-day workshop on Salsa, Bachata, and Zumba,” mentioned AKS.
Havana Salsa on a tour
Since 2019, Havana Salsa has held a monthly social at various venues spreading the intriguing touch of art around the city and soon, Todos Santos was keen to partner up with the venture in hosting a monthly social at their restaurant. As AKS shared, “In the future, we would like to host socials every week at various venues around the city. So the city can expect to find more surprises and opportunities to explore the celebrations it only heard about.”
Havana Salsa making its own mark
Havana Salsa is dancing on its own unique tune of fame and success as can be evidenced by its sharp growth in action and popularity. Recently the Havana Salsa performance team participated in the Shreya BD Rave Spectacle held at the Sheraton Hotel, Banani. This included a group Salsa and Ladies Group Bachata performance.
“This year I have been selected as the brand ambassador for Bangladesh for IALS (India Afro-Latin Sensation (IALS), Mumbai, India,” said AKS. IALS is an annual dance congress where schools and students participate to learn from visiting international teachers, dance, and socialise with people visiting from various cities of India and abroad.
A venture based on a community brought together by their passion for the intriguing dance forms can only have more surprises for us in the future, in terms of new dance styles to new festivals and celebrations.
“We are introducing Urban Kizomba shortly which is one of the most popular genres of dance around the world. It includes synchronising their body movement to the music by using elements present in Hip Hop, such as stops, taps, and isolations,” said AKS.
The plan for Havan Salsa is to go beyond their current activities to prepare performers for the grand stages and festivals where they can express themselves. So, not only is Havana Salsa going to get people rumba their way in venues around the city, but also help them salsa their way onto global stages making us part of an art much grander than us.