William “Billy Bob” Flanders, 37, has been bringing San Francisco-style salsa to Reno for the past year through Mountain Salsa Dance. He teaches classes at Dancin! Performing Arts at 3005 Skyline Blvd. To find out more, visit www.mountainsalsadance.com, or contact him at (530) 927-9451.
What kind of dances do you teach?
I teach pretty much all the dances that happen in the San Francisco and Sacramento salsa dance scene. That’s where pretty much all of my training came from. Currently, it’s San Francisco-style salsa, casino rueda [Cuban style salsa]. … Then I teach bachata, and merengue, and street-style cha, cha, cha.
How did you become interested in salsa?
I’ve been dancing since I did plays in high school. I started dancing salsa about 10 years ago. I discovered salsa music in L.A., which is where I grew up. Originally, I was training to be a percussionist for African drummer dance troupes. So I was doing some Afro-Cuban drumming, and salsa has a lot of Afro-Cuban roots, and it got me in that direction.
When did you come here?
I started teaching in Reno last June. I’ve been teaching in Truckee since 2005.
When you say “salsa,” are you talking about a dance or a group of dances?
You’re opening up a whole can of worms there. The word “salsa” was developed by a record label called Fania. They lumped it into this one lump sum and named it salsa. Before that, there were all sorts of names for the styles they were playing—merengue, cha, cha, cha. The same thing kind of goes for the dance. If you say “salsa dance,” that can imply more than just what we know as the mambo steps. That’s why I specify that I teach San Francisco-style salsa. … The whole thing about salsa is it has this huge history—and I’m just scratching the surface of it. … There’s actually a movie coming out with J. Lo and Marc Anthony called El Cantante that touches on where the word salsa came from and that record label. And Starbucks did a really good job researching and pulling out all this Fania stuff and put together a really good salsa CD.
How is the salsa scene in Reno?
The salsa scene in Reno, as far as what I’m familiar with in San Francisco and Sacramento, doesn’t compare. It’s more cumbia-influenced, which is cool, it’s just a different style of dance.
How are your classes designed?
The set-up is a four-week course. Levels 1-3 is the beginning level series. That’s three months at three separate courses. Salsa 4 is beginning/intermediate. That’s to be taken for six months, with a different curriculum each month. Then there’s salsa 5 which is “True Intermediate.” But even in the first class, you’ll have enough information to go out for social dancing.
Anything else we should know?
I’ll be holding auditions in December for a Reno-based salsa performance troupe.
Can people who want to try salsa but don’t want to commit to the full four weeks go to a drop-in class?
I feel like if you try it just one night, you haven’t given me the full chance to show what it’s all about. That’s why I feel strongly about committing for the four-week course. It’s a bargain. It’s $40 for four weeks or $35 of you pay before first class starts. … One place people can check me out and see what they think is at the salsa parties. It’s $5. The next one is Friday Aug. 3 at Dancin! Performing Arts on Skyline Blvd. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. There’s a totally intro lesson at 8 p.m. Then 8:30, I show a fun move to push beginners. Then from 9-11 p.m., we dance and have a good time, and I introduce a couple easy dances through the night. So that’s a way to test me out. Then my next full four-week course begins Aug. 6. at 6 p.m.