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Quieres Bailar? (Do You Want To Dance?)

You Can Find A Latin Dance Night Almost Every Week At Omaha's Nightclubs, Community Halls, Restaurants Or Ballrooms. Latin Music

by Lisa Prue

February 18, 2003
Copyright © 2003 OMAHA
WORLD-HERALD. All rights reserved. 

Everardo Castillo and Rocio Hernandez have come to dance.

The young couple move effortlessly in unison to the live music, stopping only briefly for a breather.

It's not long before a favorite local band, Grupo Travieso, draws the couple back.

Castillo slips an arm around Hernandez's waist, pulls her tightly against his body and spins her across the Sokol Auditorium floor to corridos, a fast country beat. She smiles as her long, wavy black hair swings against her ivory lace shirt.

The couple attend a Latin dance at least once a month. And they have many to choose from in Omaha.

The market for the dances has mushroomed over the past five years as the area's Hispanic population has grown. Nightclubs, promoters and others sponsor dances at hotel ballrooms and halls or designate weekly Latin dance nights at Mexican restaurants.

The dances draw 100 to 1,000 people, mostly Latinos.

Acts from Chicago, California, Mexico and Omaha play music ranging from banda (traditional Mexican music featuring brass instruments) to merengue (fast-paced Caribbean music).

Nearly 200 people danced to Grupo Travieso and Banda Potrero, a Southern California band, at the Sokol event.

Hernandez began attending Latin dances when she was 16 and later met Castillo, her husband, at one.

The dances are a place to meet friends, learn new steps and hear favorite bands, Hernandez said.

"Usually there are so many people on the dance floor you can't dance."

As couples groove to the music at Sokol, single men wearing their best cowboy hats and boots line the back wall, scanning the room for single women.

While the band belts out a tropical-sounding cumbia beat, a man wearing a black shirt and white cowboy hat approaches a group of young women at a nearby table.

He asks one to dance.

"No thanks," she says, shaking her head.

The man walks back to his place against the wall. Moments later, he asks another woman to dance. She says yes, and the couple find a place on the floor.

Grupo Travieso's six members play for two hours, belting out music against the backdrop of red curtains on the auditorium stage.

Manuel Alferes, a restaurant owner, has sponsored such dances, including the Sokol event, for seven years. He says a dance last year at the Civic Auditorium drew 2,200 people, his biggest crowd.

He usually charges $20 to $40 a person, depending on the venue and act. Sometimes he makes money, sometimes he breaks even, he said.

Either way, he said, "I'm having fun. I love to see people enjoy themselves."

Jose Luis de la Vega has sponsored dances featuring salsa and merengue music spun by a DJ. The dances, he says, usually drew a younger crowd from South America.

He promoted dances for eight years but stopped last year. Now he goes to Arthur's, a nightclub near 80th Street and West Dodge Road, on Thursday nights for salsa, merengue and cumbia tunes.

"Now there are a half-dozen promoters that sponsor dances," he said. "Everybody wants a piece of it."

Latin music

Merengue: Fast-paced ballroom dance that originated in the Dominican Republic in the 19th century

Salsa: Slow- or fast-paced music from the Caribbean, Puerto Rico and South America; influenced by jazz and rock

Cumbia: Tropical-sounding music from Central America and Acapulco, Mexico

Norteno: Accordion and 12-stringed baja sexto, a Mexican guitar, are lead instruments; started at the turn of the 20th century, when German and Czech immigrants brought the accordion and polka to northern Mexico

Banda: Traditional Mexican music featuring trumpets, trombones, tubas and percussion.

Source: Jose Ramon of 97.7 FM in Omaha; Pulse online magazine

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