by KASSIDY MATHER
Looking for something to spice up a boring Saturday night?
“Salsa can be spicy, or not so much. There are a lot of flavors,” says Latin dance instructor Victor Mosquera. Mosquera has been teaching Latin dancing at Studio 600 for about six months and loves every minute of it.
Studio 600 is a non-smoking, alcohol-free dance club at 26 East and 600 South in Salt Lake City. It features Latin dancing on Saturday nights from 9 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. The first hour is dedicated to dance lessons, then dancers get to try out what they’ve learned.
Mosquera, who along with teaching is in charge of the Latin dancing instructors, teaches a mix of beginning Merengue, Bachata, Cumbia and Cha-Cha-Cha, but Salsa is his favorite. “Salsa is unique. There are so many stylings in Salsa,” he said. “Salsa is my life.”
Born in Cuenca, Ecuador, Mosquera started Latin dancing about three years ago. A friend recommended dancing when Mosquera became depressed after his five-year marriage ended. “It made my self-esteem go up,” he said. Mosquera taught Latin dancing lessons at Salsa Chocolate (cho-co-la-tay) in Provo for a year prior to coming to Studio 600.
“When you are dancing, your whole brain is working,” says Mosquera.test He went on to explain that when you’re talking, you’re only using half of your brain, but when you’re dancing or doing some kind of sport, your whole brain is working. Listening to the music and planning what you’re going to do next really requires concentration. “That’s what makes you feel good out there,” he said.
Yony Lopez agrees. He and his wife, Eagan, come to Studio 600 every Saturday to Latin dance. They enjoy the clean, conservative atmosphere. “Latin music is super fun,” he said. He said Latin dancing is a hard way to move your body, so it’s a good way to lose a lot of weight.
Salsa music has a fast beat, it is loud and happy. It usually features a strong percussion section, with instruments like claves, cowbells, timbales and the conga. Other instruments include trumpets, trombones and bass. Guitar and piano can be used as accompaniment. According to Mosquera, salsa bands can have 12 to 18 people playing, which makes it special.
“In our culture, the way we meet girls and guys is dancing,” says Lopez, who was born and raised in Guatemala.
Lopez thinks that the club attracts a lot of Latino people because the variety of styles draws an assortment of different people and languages. “All kinds of people [come] from different backgrounds and countries,” he said. Merengue and Bachata are popular in the Dominican Republic, Cumbia originates from Colombia and Cha-Cha-Cha is Cuban. Salsa, he explained, is from all over, including Cuba, Puerto Rico and Colombia.
But Studio 600 has more than just Latin dancing. Tuesday and Thursday nights are dedicated to country dancing; Wednesday is Reggae and 80s night and Friday features Top-40 music. Plus, there are three separate dance floors, each featuring a different style each night, and even a room with karaoke and pool tables. There really is something for everyone, every night.
Steve Ames, the founder and owner of Studio 600, mixes up the styles to attract the mainstream crowd and make it more diverse. “It kind of hit me last week when we started this reggae floor and it really has attracted the Polynesian crowd,” Ames said. “I just got thinking about it, and … we really cater to all the ethnicities, the larger ethnic groups in the city and state. We have something for everyone, for the most part.”
Ames has worked hard to expand the club into what it is today. He began with a small group at Trolley Square, where he held country dancing Tuesdays and Thursdays, Top-40 on Fridays and Latin dancing on Saturdays.
The crowds have grown slowly and steadily. After almost eight years, the group had outgrown the original Trolley Square location, and his lease was up, so Ames had to find somewhere else to go. He had passed the old building on 26 East and 600 South for years and never noticed it. “When I needed a place there was a for lease sign on the building,” Ames said.
He made a deal with the owner and went to work. The building was originally built in the 1940s and Ames put $1.2 million into renovations. The process from the time he signed the lease to the day the doors opened took three years.
The move has proved beneficial. “Latin night at Trolley Square used to be about 200 people,” Ames said. “Now we’re over 800 to 900 every single Saturday.”
The club hosts about 2,000 dancers a week. The most popular nights are Thursdays and Saturdays, although once a month larger parties are held which attract a good sized crowd. These parties are usually held on a Friday and include New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day and an End-of-Summer party.
The club also hosts a disc jockey every night and often has live performances by up-and-coming local artists. The entrance line is usually stretches to the street, but it moves quickly and is worth the wait.
Studio 600 is one-of-a-kind. The environment attracts people who just want to dance. “It fits the community, you know, a large base of the community,” Ames explained. “You have literally hundreds of bars and nightclubs that serve alcohol,” he said. “We cater to a different crowd.”
Ames went on to say that compared to other nearby nightclubs, Studio 600 has a more conservative crowd, and offers a greater variety of dancing styles. Plus, he bragged, “You could put four of their clubs inside of our club.”
Mosquera agrees. “I think there’s no other place to go,” he said. “Here, you come for dancing.”
Beginners and experienced dancers alike can enjoy this club; few places offer to teach dance lessons before the crowds come. Even Mosquera takes lessons to learn new moves, often traveling to Los Angeles, New York and Las Vegas to learn the latest techniques. When he returns he shares them with the dancers at the club.
Mosquera plans to finish the year teaching at Studio 600, but after that will probably move on. “I always like to move forward,” he said. His two children have kept him in Utah for now, but he likes to compete and is considering going to Los Angeles to take part in the salsa congress there.
A salsa congress is a meeting of professional and beginner dancers to enjoy and learn about the evolving dance. The meetings include shows, workshops, live bands, master classes and competitions. Congresses can be found throughout the world.
Stop by Studio 600 and experience the fun for yourself. Country lessons are taught from 8 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, and Latin lessons from 9 to 10 p.m. Saturday. The earlier you go, the lower the entrance fee, which ranges from $4 to $10. Once the lessons end, the open dancing begins.