With the cold March weather here in Baltimore, I’ve been reminiscing this week about my June excursion as a chaperone to Cuba with twenty Baltimore high school students. In particular, I’m remembering an exciting dance class that we were able to take part in at La Esquina del Jazz in Havana, Cuba.
Monday was day 7 of our 10-day trip with high school students through “La Habana”. As was similar to each day in our trip, we visited four community projects throughout the day, as our People to People visa with Cuba left very little wiggle room in our schedule.
This jam-packed schedule played to our benefit, however, giving us many more opportunities to meet outgoing native Cubans who were going to incredible lengths to preserve their cultural heritage and raise their communities to even greater heights.
After a fantastic morning visiting the community cultural center known as El Tanque in la Habana, we stopped by La Esquina del Jazz for an afternoon of salsa dancing. As we pulled up to the spot, a few of our students were a bit apprehensive, not being quite comfortable with dancing in front of their peers. But as chaperones, we were thrilled for this part of the excursion!
Once we entered the small, dimly lit space, the director offered us refreshments and greeted us warmly. The twenty of us squeezed into the small space, as ten Cubans who were already there dancing the salsa stopped to introduce themselves to us.
We immediately felt at ease, and the director led us in a series of lessons for different traditional Cuban dances, as diverse as the Cuban Salsa and the Rumba, to the cha cha cha and the mambo. We tried it all! The students were great sports, and we took turns practicing our new dance moves with the instructor and the Cubans who had stopped by to help teach and make us feel at ease.
Overall, dancing at La Esquina del Jazz was a fantastic experience, and a favorite Havana site that I would go to for lessons again in a heartbeat!