Dance and Broad Ripple and Arts & Entertainment, etc. and Bars/Taverns and Restaurants and Retail and Real Estate & Retail

Schedule shift heats salsa war at two area hot spots

March 2, 2009
Nadia Alvarado calls herself a salsera.

By day she works toward her master's in philanthropic studies at IUPUI, but five nights a week she lets down her raven hair, dons a swinging skirt and allows herself to be dipped and twirled across any dance floor that'll have her, as long as there's salsa music playing.

Come March 4, Alvarado isn't quite sure where she'll go. After four years, the Red Room club in Broad Ripple is switching its salsa night from Wednesday to Thursday and local salseros are worried about stepping on some toes.

You don't have to be a seasoned dancer to know Thursdays are The Jazz Kitchen's territory. It's no wonder, since the club's owner David Allee has been promoting the event for 13 years. Red Room knows this, IntoSalsa Latin dance studio knows this, but Allee didn't get a call from either.

As it stands, Wednesdays are at Red Room hosted by IntoSalsa. Thursdays are The Jazz Kitchen on 54th Street and College Avenue, hosted by SalsaIndy. Fridays are DJ-hosted at El Meson near College Park, and Saturdays are either at El Meson by IntoSalsa or downtown at Adobo Grill, hosted by SalsaIndy. Sundays are usually at a studio, according to whoever still has energy.

Mondays and Tuesdays are the salsa dancer's weekend.

"We're a huge supporter of the scene and different places to go, so we'll just see what happens," Allee said.

Alvarado says The Jazz Kitchen dancers tend to be less experienced, but that doesn't seem to keep the crowd away. El Meson, Vito's on Penn downtown and Tropicana (now closed) have all tried to host a Thursday salsa party and failed, but Red Room, whose owner Mitsy Niemeyer, was not available for comment, is going to try it anyway.

Yang Xiao, who owns IntoSalsa with his wife, Erin Lamb, said the change was made to beef up Broad Ripple's slower Thursday night. "If I owned the Red Room, I'd do the same thing," Xiao said.

He acknowledges The Jazz Kitchen's established claim over Thursday night salsa, but he doesn't necessarily think people have to choose.

"The clubs are close to one another, so it'll be easy for dancers to hit both," Xiao said. "This move could end up helping both of us."

Marques Gunter, founder of SalsaIndy and a former student of Xiao's, isn't so sure.

"[Xiao] should have refused Thursday nights and just found another venue," Gunter said. He added that if anyone can take on Allee, it's Xiao.

Gunter, whose dance company has been giving the pre-party lesson at The Jazz Kitchen since October, doesn't think there are enough salseros out on Thursdays to support both clubs. Rather, he said the key to success in this situation is to broaden the theme to Latin dancing in general, thus attracting Hispanic dancers.

"The Hispanic crowd is way bigger than the salsa dancer crowd, plus they drink more at the bar and usually stay out later," Gunter said.

He and Allee have plans to open a second dance floor in the former piano store space next to The Jazz Kitchen, featuring two DJs, one Latin dance and the other salsa.

Xiao has a similar plan. Instead of calling his Red Room party "Pure Salsa" as he has for the last four years, he's brainstorming something more generic.

Gunter and Xiao's organizations also compete on Saturday nights, between their parties at Adobo Grill and El Meson, respectively.

"Our Saturdays have enough physical distance between them to stay out of one another's way," Gunter said.

Meanwhile, less than a week after IntoSalsa announced the Wednesday night vacancy, Manhattan, in Clearwater, has already scooped up a weekly gig.

This is good news for Alvarado.

"I would have cried if we'd lost Wednesday for good," she said.
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