The local salsa and Latin-dance scene continues to grow and attract attention, however, is there enough of an audience and dance culture to sustain two weekly events both held on Friday nights in downtown Asheville? Two weeks ago, after receiving a letter from local salsa-dance teacher and choreographer Maria Voisin – sent out on Facebook – the issue of competition in the salsa-dance community caught Xpress’ attention. Dancers eager to immerse themselves in the rich music and flavors of Latin dance now have multiple floors to choose from: Salseros 828’s introductory dance-class/evening dance party at Eleven on Grove or Mela Indian Restaurant’s Friday night fiesta featuring live music by rotating DJs.
Photo by Jonathan Welch, taken at Eleven on Grove in 2008.
Voisin voiced frustration and concern about the situation, fearing that the long-running Salseros’ event at Eleven on Grove is now in jeopardy of closing permanently.
After reporting about the issue in a blog post on the website (”Two local salsa-dance events compete for a crowd”), Xpress received a phone call from Anoop Krishnan, the owner of Mela, who wanted to make a few clarifications about Mela’s Friday night Latin dance, which was incorrectly reported as being a free event. Krishnan stressed two key points in the conversation: That Mela does change fee of $5 at the door, and that the event was established with the intention of featuring a wide variety of Latin dance music that includes Merenge, Cumbia and Batchata songs.
According to Krishnan, Mela’s Friday night event began three months ago when local dancer Marco Lopez approached him with the idea. Lopez’s goal, as Krishnan stated, was not to compete with Voisin or Club Eleven, but to bring in rotating DJs each week who would play Merengue, Cumbia and Bachata dance music. When asked if it were possible to host this event on another night of the week, Krishnan said that, “the people who organized it could only do it on Friday night.” He continued: “The article makes it seem like we are just doing salsa and trying to compete with Maria, but we are not competing with anyone, we are trying to bring in different kinds of music.”
When asked for an update on Salseros’ event, Voisin wrote that, “Club Eleven will keep the salsa night free and going until Halloween.” Voisin continues, “[This] will be the last event if the numbers don’t pick up, or if Anoop still refuses to do Salsa on another night. What is missing from the dialogue is that dance is not the same kind of business as a restaurant, for example. When community gets divided it results in a conflict that drives people away permanently. If you are going out to relieve stress and all the sudden two of your friends are having an event the same night and you have to choose, it makes you skip the whole thing altogether.”
For now, Eleven on Grove will continue to host salsa dancing on Fridays, free of charge, and Mela will continue bringing in various DJs to perform at the restaurant on a weekly basis. Will the community be able to support both of these events? Time will tell.