On Wednesday nights, Sycamore Deli, located downtown on Draper Road, transforms from a sandwich shop into a Latin dance club swarmed with dance enthusiasts. The lights are dimmed and loud music reverberates throughout the downstairs area. It is Salsa Massive, a weekly event hosted by Virginia Tech club SalsaTech. “It’s something that you’re not going to see at any other night throughout the week,” said Sebastian Andrade, president of SalsaTech. “It’s something that is definitely going to be unique, with unique people. It’s just a different way of having fun.”
Originally from Venezuela, Andrade is a junior majoring in philosophy, politics and economics, as well as international studies. He joined SalsaTech in the fall of 2015. “I thought it would be a good way to start interacting with one of my passions, which is dancing,” he said. Now president of the club, he says that salsa has given him the opportunity to interact with many different kinds of people. “I’m an extrovert. I gain all my energy by just meeting people, talking and being out there, and definitely salsa is something that helps with that.”
Every aspect of Salsa Massive is run by members of the club, from dance instruction to the music played over the speakers. Lessons begin at 9:30 p.m. and are taught by members of SalsaTech. Students can learn Latin dances like the bachata, merengue and different kinds of salsa. You don’t need experience or a partner to attend. “We try to give as many lessons as we can, to as many people as we can, with the resources that we have,” Andrade said. “And the whole idea is to make as many people fall in love with the Latin dances.”
Free dance begins at 10 p.m. and is open to the public. The later the night gets, the more crowded the dance floor becomes.
Salsa Massive attracts a steady group of Virginia Tech regulars, along with others from the community. Kelsea Mensh, a junior studying international relations and Spanish, has been attending since her freshman year. Like many who attend, she wasn’t a professional, but she learned the steps through lessons and practice. “I was a little nervous my freshman year,” she said, but she now feels much more comfortable with her dancing ability. “I’m still not a professional, but there are so many talented dancers there that make you look good. They always teach you new skills.”
Word of mouth is largely responsible for introducing new people to Salsa Massive. “I think that’s definitely a really strong part of how we tend to do advertising,” Andrade said. “If we actually make you enjoy it, you’re going to show up with your friends, and you are way more reliable than just a Facebook post or an email that we may send.” Mensh was introduced to Salsa Massive through a friend who was involved in the club, and now she tries to pay it forward by inviting others. “Every week I try to invite new people,” she said. “I like bringing people for their first time because someone had to do that for me. I like being that person.”
For Mensh, Salsa Massive is more than just a fun dance party. “I love the cultural aspect of it,” she said. Being a Spanish major, Mensh finds Salsa Massive an important opportunity to practice the language with native speakers. Attendance is not limited to just Spanish speakers, though. “I always go there and meet people from all over the world,” she said.
On top of that, Salsa Massive is a fun experience. “It’s like a big party. It’s really fun to meet people,” Mensh said.
“I think that by dancing you get to know people in a completely different context than just normal conversation,” Andrade said. “You actually have to communicate in a way that is not always verbal, which I believe creates a deeper bond between people.”