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The Wichita Eagle

Wichita Can Cha-Cha Copa Cabana Is A New Downtown Latin Dance Club Designed To Be A Tropical Oasis.


January 3, 2003
Copyright © 2003 The Wichita Eagle. All rights reserved. 

His name is Carlos. He's not a showgirl. But if you visit his new downtown dance club, you'll never get that darn "Copa Cabana" song out of your head.

The tradeoff might be worth it, though.

Carlos Ortiz, a local aircraft mechanic, has teamed up with partners Ricardo Moreno and Michael Esparza to open a club called, of course, Copa Cabana.

The club, which opened on New Year's Eve at 223 S. St. Francis, brings a totally new concept to the periphery of Old Town -- a Latin dance club.

Designed to be a bit of a tropical oasis in Kansas, the club will feature Latin and Caribbean-style dance music, and the dance floor will ideally be filled with people doing the cha-cha, the samba, the merengue, the salsa and the tango.

"When you are here, you're going to feel like you're on a tropical island," said Ortiz, a native Puerto Rican who can do a mean merengue.

The idea for the club grew after Ortiz, the former president of the local Hispanic Heritage Committee, and a few committee members began organizing monthly Latin dances at McConnell Air Force Base.

The dances were popular -- the music even more so.

"We saw that there was a big demand for the music," Ortiz said. "A lot of people were looking for something like that."

On Tuesday, the owners were busy putting the finishing touches on the club -- arranging palm trees, installing lights and setting up the bar, which will include a menu of tropical drinks such as pina coladas.

Ortiz, who grew up "dancing in the streets" in Puerto Rico, took a break to put on a mini-demonstration of the dancing that he hopes will fill the club.

Accompanied by his daughter (and by a spicy musical selection from club disc jockey Jose Ruiz) Ortiz deftly moved about the dance floor in a merengue blur, swinging his hips and twisting and turning his partner in time to the music.

Even though both wore casual clothes they'd come to work in, their dance moves were exciting and visually stimulating, and it was easy to see how clubgoers might find the exotic dances infectious.

Ortiz predicts that the majority of the club's attendees will be native Latinos searching for a place to dance and non-natives who love to dance or learned how on cruise ships or in resorts.

So what about the rest -- those who feel the tango beat but can't cha-cha a lick?

The club will offer free dance lessons to anyone who wants to learn. It even has a secondary practice dance floor toward the back where the timid can rehearse.

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