PDD Calendar intern Shannon Kinley takes us behind the scenes of Duluth events in this series.
When many people think of Valentine’s Day they think of a box of chocolates, flowers, dinner and maybe a movie. However, some people choose to do other things around the community such as learn to salsa.
Avalon Educational Institute located on W. Superior Street hosted Valentine’s Day salsa night.
“It might make one person’s Valentine’s Day and that is worth it,” said Executive Director and founder of the institute, Justin Markus.
Avalon used to offer salsa lessons once a week but recently had to switch to monthly because not enough people were showing up.
As you walk into the room you are greeted by friendly instructors, vivid red walls, a wooden dance floor surrounded by mirrors and last but not least upbeat music.
“We thought people might want a little cheap date,” Markus said.
Katie Kero, the salsa instructor, has been a student at Avalon since it opened and has been teaching salsa since this past September.
“It is something to do and a break from something else,” Kero said.
At the event Kero stuck to the basic steps of salsa. She hopes that people will return having already learned the basics, and that they will be able to move on to more moves, perhaps beyond the basic step and turns.
Throughout the lesson Kero made sure to not only explain the steps, but to demonstrate them. Everyone got to experience dancing with different people, and some even learned both the lead and the follow roles.
“It doesn’t matter what kind of day I am having, after I come here my day is just better,” Kero said. “It makes me feel free.”
Kero said one reason she like salsa so much is because you can build other things into it. For example, she works in some swing dance into it.
It is not just the students that learn new things. As Kero is teaching her students she is also learning.
“As they are learning or dancing I pick up different tricks along the way,” Kero said.
Kero thinks the most challenging thing about learning salsa for her was footwork, but it is different for everyone.
“When I first started my footwork was atrocious. It took me a full month to figure it out,” Kero said.
Kero made sure to reassure anyone at the event who said, “I can’t dance,” by saying, “There is no such thing as being bad at salsa. The best part of salsa is that no one knows if you mess up you just keep dancing.”
Although only five people showed up to the event, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.
Jillian Votaua was one of the people who decided to spend her night learning how to salsa. She has done salsa a few times before and knows how to do a couple other types of dances such as swing dancing and ballroom dancing.
“It is something to do. It has been a really long day today (Thursday) so when I got the email to remind me I decided to come give it a try,” Votaua said.
Votaua recommends salsa nights because she says you will always meet people at these kinds of events.
“It is an activity that uses a lot of coordination so you can only think about dancing. You can’t think about the person that cut you off earlier,” Votaua said.
Friends Brianna Vujovich and Rebecca Bischoff also decided to spend their Valentine’s Day learning how to salsa.
They actually met at an event similar to this one but it was a different kind of dancing, burlesque.
“It’s nice to get out of the house on Valentine’s Day,” Vujovich said.
Bischoff agreed and said she thought it would be a fun way to spend the night.
“I liked when we didn’t have to think about it and it just felt natural,” Vujovich said.
Bishoff’s favorite part about salsa were the turns, even though she thought that she wasn’t very good at them.
Both of the girls agreed that they would definitely do something like this again. They both hope to come back and learn more salsa moves, beyond just the basics.
Avalon offers salsa lessons every second Thursday of each month. The next one will be March 14 at 8 p.m.