Line dancing and clog dancing, move over.
Nashville, known mostly for country and folk dancing, is being introduced to salsa dancing, whether it wants to be or not.
Since 2009, a Nashville organization has staged hundreds of flash-mob-type salsa dance parties in public locations throughout Nashville.
The Colombian Party Cartel, a Latin music production company, which also organizes Colombian-style parties, has a diverse fan base of salsa dancers who meet in Nashville once or twice a month to engage in spirited salsa dancing, said Carey James Balboa, founder and organizer of the Colombian Party Cartel.
During warm months it’s not uncommon to see a flash mob of salsa dancers dancing inside a circle of cars in empty parking lots or on rooftops around the city.
Events and locations are announced on the company’s website.
On the day of the party, dozens of cars arrive at the specified location. Salsa music begins to blast from a mobile PA system.
The dance floor comes alive with rhythmic bodily movements and intricate choreography.
As high-tempo Latin beats fill the air, feet begin to shuffle.
Hips start to sway.
Twirling, spinning, dipping.
When inclement weather prevents outdoor events, clubs are the preferred venue.
When snow began to fall during a cold night on February 7, the party was heating up at Boca Loca, a local restaurant and cantina located on 2000 Belcourt Avenue in Nashville.
Outfits ranged from luxurious, brightly colored dresses to casual T-shirts and blue jeans.
Men and women of every ethnicity joined together to experience an exotic, high-energy Colombian club experience.
As I walked onto the dance floor, a feeling of excitement overtook my body.
The bass from the speakers shook me to my core. The uptempo beat begged me to dance.
At that moment I felt as if I had stepped onto the dance floor of a packed club in Colombia.
Balboa says the organization goes to great lengths to make the parties authentically Colombian.
“We have live assets on the ground in Colombia and we pay them to go to the hottest clubs and bars and stay all night,” said Balboa. “They write down every song that was played, the time it was played, and the crowd reaction.”
That information is used to help them create a genuine Colombian club experience in Nashville, said Balboa.
“That’s why the Latin people here love us so much, because we’re so authentic,” said Balboa. “We’re always finding new material from Colombia thanks to our South American connections.”
Before the organization was created, Latin events around Nashville were in disarray, said Balboa.
Bothered by this lack of organization, Balboa said he set out to change the Latin community in Nashville.
In 2009, Balboa joined forces with Leonardo Campo to create the organization.
“We started really small and the parties kept growing,” said Campo.
Campo’s passion for salsa music and dancing derives from his childhood memories of growing up in Cali, Colombia.
“You grow up listening to salsa every day. When you wake up, the first thing you hear is salsa,” said Campo. “That’s all you hear on the radio stations. That’s part of my passion.”
Balboa said that his experience of DJ’ing around Central and South America for many months inspired him to come back to Nashville and kick it up a notch.
“I started this website in 2007 called Diablos Que Bailan (devils that dance) because I saw that in the Latin community in Nashville the Latin events were sporadic and unorganized and people found out about them weeks after they happened,” said Balboa. “So I created a place for anybody who’s doing Latin events to post it so that people would have choices where to go.”
The site helped grow the Latin sense of community in Nashville dramatically, said Balboa. “It was my way of organizing the organizers.”
The success of Diablos Que Bailan encouraged Balboa to ultimately create the Colombian Party Cartel.
Ellen Ordoñez, Colombian Party Cartel photographer and art director, said that Salsa music isn’t just for Colombians.
“A lot of people can relate to Columbian music, not just people from Colombia,” said Ordoñez. “It’s all about partying and having fun.”
Another goal of the Colombian Party Cartel is to change the reputation of Colombia by bringing fun, authentic Colombian parties to Nashville, said Balboa.
“Colombians are some of the happiest people in the world,” said Ordoñez. “It’s unfortunate that Colombia has always been known for drugs and violence.”
The organization’s name, Colombian Party Cartel, is a poke at the reputation of Colombia, said Ordoñez.
For a small fee, typically $10 at the door, you can experience an important aspect of Colombian culture, said Balboa.
For more information about the Colombian Party Cartel, please visit colombianpartycartel.com. You can also find them on Facebook at facebook.com/ColombianPartyCartel.