Is dancing more like reading or writing? I’ve had a couple of dancer roommates, and we used to talk about the difference between the way that musicians, like me, approach dance and the way that dancers approach dance. For many musicians, dancing is like reading: We listen to the music—more specifically, we listen to what the musicians are playing—and respond physically. For us, the music comes first, the dance second. For many dancers, the music accompanies the dance. The dance exists whether there is sound or not, and the music is there to support it.
I asked B.B. of Salsa Reno to explain the relationship between salsa music and salsa dancing.
“It’s kind of a ‘What came first, the chicken or the egg?’ situation, isn’t it?” he said, with a laugh.
B.B. was born William Robert Flanders of Los Angeles, but everybody knows him as B.B. of Salsa Reno. Now in his late 30s, he has been salsa dancing for 15 years, teaching it since 2002, and teaching locally since 2006. He hosts salsa events nearly every night of the week—beginner-friendly classes on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights at Starlite Dance Center in south Reno, and salsa dance parties every Thursday night at The Agave, and Salsa Sundays at the Silver Legacy’s Aura Ultra Lounge. Starting Sept. 25, he’ll host the Mesa Luna Social in the Peppermill’s Edge nightclub. A regular all-ages salsa night at the University of Nevada, Reno is also in the works.
So he’s a busy guy, but it’s clear he loves what he does.
“I’ve always loved music,” he says. “I’ve always loved orchestrated music, and I love rhythm. Salsa is the perfect combination. … Salsa is the combination of African and European music coming together in Cuba.”
B.B. is well-versed in the different styles and rhythms of salsa dancing, as well as the extensive history of the music. He also has genuine excitement about the local salsa scene he’s worked hard to help create.
“With any kind of scene, there’s always a boom and bust cycle,” he says. “The salsa scene in Reno is just about there—it’s just about to really boom. Now’s the time to get in on it.”
I attended one of his Monday night introductory salsa classes—and struggled to tell my left from right. My excuse, to myself, was that I was multitasking—taking notes and photos for this story.
There were about 25 or 30 students in the class, covering a full range of ages, from early 20s to mid 60s, as well as an equal mix of male and female and a diversity of ethnicities and abilities. There were some graceful and athletic dancers, but it was obvious that I wasn’t the only beginner.
But B.B. is a clear and concise teacher, with loads of good advice: “Your weight distribution should always be about 90 percent on one foot, 10 percent on the other. You never want to have equal weight on both feet—you’ll fall over.”
The one thing I really learned is that the heart of salsa dancing is in the hips. A good dancer’s hips sway as their weight shifts from one leg to the other. My own hips swayed like a couple of fat hogs playing tug-of-war—but damn if it didn’t feel good.
“If this is your first time in a dance class, don’t worry if you don’t get it right away,” said B.B.
Salsa is a social dance form, a way of dancing based on interaction and reaction, and for someone who loves to dance socially, learning some basic techniques is like a sudden boost in vocabulary.
“If you take any kind of dance class, it’s going to give you a foundation for any kind of dancing,” said B.B.
You need to buy a hammer before you build a shed, and learning to write will always make you a better reader.