Decade of dance: Club celebrates milestone

Decade of dance: Club celebrates milestone
TEAM. Founders of the Cebu Salsa Club.
Decade of dance: Club celebrates milestone
DANCING. Free Salsa Class at Maya Mexican Restaurant in Crossroads, Banilad.

PULSATING with the beat of Salsa music and coordinated steps, the Cebu Salsa Club celebrated 10 years of bringing the joy of salsa on June 26, 2024, shouting “Adante!” to more years of vibrant salsa nights at Maya’s Mexican Restaurant.

The event, open to the public, featured a free salsa class with complimentary taxi dancers and 2-for-1 mojitos all night. Alongside the anniversary was the recent launch of the restaurant’s new menu, allowing the club’s patrons to explore its new offers, showing the perfect synergy between institutions.

“Salsa [nights] have always been associated with Maya,” said Jom Gonzales, the senior sous chef at the restaurant.

Since July 25, 2014, Salsa Nights at Maya Mexican Restaurant have drawn in diverse crowds of seasoned dancers and curious newcomers, forging friendships and community as the longest-running salsa social in the Philippines. Starting with Salsa, the club has introduced diverse dance styles to Cebu over the years, such as On-1 Linear Salsa, On-2 NY Salsa, Urban Bachata, Sensual Bachata, Kizomba and Brazilian Zouk, attracting international dancers and artists.

Growth

While the Salsa Club boasted its 10th year with Maya’s Mexican Restaurant, it had already existed three years prior to their partnership with the restaurant. Turning 13 in April and marked with the Cebu SBKZ International Festival, it was founded in 2011 by Jilly Enriquez, John Robert Monteith, Aileen Henson, Barbie Alonso and Kevin Sato.

Monteith A.K.A. DJ El Camino, who also worked as the club’s teacher/coach, shared that the first social was nearly empty. Starting its momentum after three months, Monteith said that it started growing exponentially after a year. Now, the club has an estimate of 100 active members and close to 3,000 students since it started.

Much more lively before the pandemic, co-founder Jilly Enriquez shared the story of the Salsa Nights’ festivities, “pre-pandemic Salsa Nights used to be crazier. The spaces were filled upstairs and downstairs, with territories established. The Spanish would be there, and the French would be here,” pointing to tables adjacent to each other.

Salsa Nights were originally held on Wednesdays. But as the crowds started growing, they added Sundays, and then Fridays, turning the event into a triweekly function. Co-founder Aileen Henson associated this frequency to her bid to invite people to their Salsa Nights, saying, “it’s a good way to meet people and make new friends. In Singapore, I found a family in my dance group. Especially for people who are not from Cebu, it’s a good way to find a family and make new friends because it’s a regular activity.”

Community forged through dance

As dance builds cultures, communities, and relationships, Salsa Nights at Maya’s Mexican Restaurant has done nothing short of the three. With a growing family, the club continues to influence the Cebuano social scene.

Students shared their gratitude for the club, collectively acknowledging its role in creating a safe space for them.

Allieyah Desamparado, a trans woman who joined the club in 2023, said she feels accepted. Joining on her own, she found a community, “something like belongingness.” During a very important phase in her transition, she revealed that she had no one to look after her, except the founders Jill and John.

To dance enthusiasts without a professional background, no issue is seen by the club. Cebu Salsa Club’s public relations head Hanski Garcia is not a natural dancer, but she said that she loves music, especially when it is interpreted in a dance in Maya.

“It is a stress reliever for me especially after a long day at work. It allows me to express myself creatively and relax,” Garcia said.

New menu

As festivities ensued, the restaurant also showcased their new menu with a selection of new food and drinks. Jom Gonzales, senior sous chef at Maya’s said that it is the biggest change in its menu since its 15 years of service.

“It’s only been very recently that we’ve been able to revamp, but always retaining the favorites. That’s what we always had in mind during this process. We never forgot what people liked, but we also wanted to present things that were new, something fresh, and something exciting,” said Gonzales.

The revamp, also working with cocktails to complement the food, has presented four new drinks which are the Maracuya Spritz, Socal Sour, Piña Picante Margarita, and Old Germano, while the new menu offers Elotes, Ceviche, Taco birria, Vientre tacos, Tres leches, Flan and Tostadas.

Tyrashelvy Villamil, Silliman University Intern / Writer

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