Salsa in Taiwan

---> Wo ist das?

Wednesday, August 8th, 2007 Latitude: 25.038502N Longitude: 121.553121E

Why would it be normal to go and dance Salsa in Hamburg, Berlin, Amsterdam or Cologne but not in Almaty, Kazakhstan or in Taipei, Taiwan? Still, it always surprises me to land in such, well, remote places (from my euro-centric point of view) and be able to walk into places called “Cuba”, or “Olala” and watch dancers spinning away to Latino rhythms as if it were the most natural thing to do so. As in former waves of this kind of international “Tropical Fever” our decades Salsa craze is spreading world wide – but this time deeper and wider at the same time. Is it the Internet? Is it the comparably cheap travel costs for salsa aficionados carrying the virus into the remotest places?

Wherever you go, any bigger city in the world will have places, dancers – and teachers. And ever so often, the smaller the number of aficionados in one place, the lesser the number of teachers, down to a one-city-one-teacher ratio. If they are good, then fine, they clone their style, cuban, puerto-rican, L.A. or New York or anything in between or any other funny creole-isation. If they are not good, well, they clone their style as well.

In the “Olala” a french restaurant in Taipei offering Salsa on some days in the week, the teacher had been good. A crowd of dedicated dancers flicked away puerto rican style, slick figures, ladies turning stylish, the man leading them along the imaginary lines on the floor. Not my cup-of-rum, still, nice to watch. One lady stuck out, as she was the only non-asian on the dance-floor by the time we arrived and also the only black person in the room. My colleagues from Radio Taiwan and I settled for some drinks at the bar, watching the dancers, chatting after a week of intensive work together.

Suddenly, she lost one of her creoles. Picking them up, saving them from the feet of the dancers was the natural thing to do – and also a fine occasion to talk to her, once the song was over. Turned out, she was from Johannesburg, living in Taipei for no particular reason other than enjoying the place and having work to do: she was one of the Salsa teachers. How she is transforming shy chinese into exalted latin dancers she never revealed – but from having danced with her I assume it was by her special kind of cultural osmoses, infecting them with both the latino rhythms and south african life-loving spirits. Worked fine for me, I had a wonderful evening.