All my trips to NYC are planned pretty much around one thing – dancing. Yes, there’s the amazing food, yes there’s arts and culture but really, it’s the one place I go to be inspired and to get better at what I enjoy most.
New York really is a mecca for any On2 dancer, with top instructors and teams all over the city, great social dancing to be had almost every night of the week, and dancers that are fanatical enough to hit one social after the other in a single night, dancing for up to 8 hours straight. In short, it’s HEAVEN.
As a “salsa tourist”, the go-to resource for places to dance is Salsa New York’s Mambo Events Calendar. It’s definitely not a complete view of your dancing options, but definitely a great start. There’s a whole lot of options here, but I always plan to be there from Thursdays to Sundays for the best dancing. Here’s my pick of the best options on and off the site, all of them ridiculously easy for someone who’s a first-timer to NYC to get to:
Thursday nights at Club Cache
Off the calendar but known to every salsa dancer in NYC, this is pretty much the best club-setting social to go to. It’s literally an underground club right off Times Square, so it’s really central, easy to get to and away from, and you never have to worry about going back at night alone in the dark, because the street outside is just bustling with activity all the time. Unlike other latin clubs who normally go full-on with the merengue, bachata and reggaeton, it’s pretty much classic salsa and chacha here, which is great! Because this is a proper club, you don’t wanna show up there at 9pm – doors only open at 10 and things only start heating up closer to 11. The great thing though, is that dressing fancy isn’t required. Go for casual and comfy because it does get hot, no matter how cold it is outside. And if you look young and Asian like me, bring ID – they check. They regularly have guest performances just about every week so check the schedule at www.clubcachenyc.com. Club Cache is at 221 W 46th Street, right off Times Square. Walk down the street from American Eagle, towards the Church of Scientology, and look out on your right for a non-descript door that leads you underground. Cover is $11 after 10.30pm.
Friday Nights – An Evening with Abakua
Otherwise known as “Frankie’s social”, this is my top pick for Friday nights. There are a few other midtown Manhattan options, but I find that the dancers and the music here are better as far as Fridays go – Frankie Martinez himself mans the decks after all, and a lot of the dancers are his students. The social happens at Club 412 or the “You Should Be Dancing” studio, which is located right beside Madison Square Garden and Penn station. After 10 is a good time to arrive, and you will have to buzz yourself in to get to the party on the 4th floor. Just follow the dancers and loud music. Cover is $10 and while its rather dark and quiet at night, K-town and all its 24-hour food places is a just a couple of streets down if you’re up for a post-dancing Korean supper. Remember to check on the Salsa NY Calendar for dates though, as this social happens every alternate week. You don’t wanna end up there when there is no dancing to be had. Club 412 is on the 4th floor of 412 8th Avenue, between 30th and 31st.
Saturday has always been a bit of a tricky day for finding good dancing without having to leave Manhattan. The Saturday schedule has been very fluid and seems to change every year, with new options popping up all the time. The latest addition to the mix, Salsamania Saturdays at the Dancesport Studios, right by the Empire State Building. The dancefloor is lovely, because its a huge ballroom studio, there’s a full bar to boot. Good music, and many friendly faces and regulars showed up the one night I went, so this does look like the Saturday spot of choice for now. Again, studio social style and no need for fancy dressing. Every 2nd and 4th Saturday of the month at 22 W 34th street on the 4th floor. Cover is $11. Go early, because it’s one of those “evening” socials, so it’s good to arrive from 6 – 7, cos dancing ends at 9.30pm – just in time to hit a night time social if you feel like a trek out to Brooklyn.
Sundays at Jimmy Anton’s / LVG
Sunday is by far, the BEST day for dancing in NYC. Socials on Sunday tend to be earlier evening ones – just so that people are able to head to work the next day. One great thing to do, if you have the stamina, is to attend Eddie Torres’ classes at Nola’s, before heading out to hit the dance floor with your technique sharpened and ready for more fancy footwork. It’s tough, but it’s great.
There are two awesome Sunday evening social options. Every 1st, 3rd and 5th Sunday of the month is Jimmy Anton night. Jimmy’s is a veritable NY salsa institution – the longest running and most well attended social by far. It’s a hot, sweaty salsa mess in the best way possible, with tunes spun by Jimmy Anton himself and all the best in NY and NJ out to play. Dress for comfort and bring a change of clothes if you know yourself to get soaked dancing – you’ll need it. Arriving around 6.30pm gives you ample time to dance with a comfortable amount of space before the crowd really hits. You’ll also be dancing through dinner time, so bring snacks or eat something before. Jimmy’s happens from 5 – 9pm at Dance Manhattan, on the 5th floor of 39 W 19th, between 5th and 6th. You’re looking for a lift lobby right below these tiger flags for a martial arts studio.
The other option for the 2nd and 4th Sundays is La Vieja Guardia, or LVG for short. I last attended this when it was still happening on Saturdays, and didn’t get to try it this year, but I remember the music and dancing being absolutely awesome, and NY’s salsa regulars and insiders tell me that this is one of the best socials to go for right now. LVG happens at 335 W 35th (between 8th and 9th) on the 5th floor. Again, its an evening social so don’t arrive late. Dancing wraps by 9.
If you’re headed to the Big Apple and want to check out some dancing, hope this helps. Again, I’ve never actually been dancing outside of Manhattan so this really is my view of what’s near and easy to get to/away from when you’re done. Remember, things do change up quite a bit, and I can only say that this is correct at the time of posting. More tips though, on making the most of an overseas dancing trip coming soon!