Tokyo Likes to Mueve Mueve
By Lisa Hong
I first learned to Salsa dance when I was studying abroad in Accra, Ghana. I remember feeling timid and inadequate, but I loved watching others who were more experienced; I yearned to emulate their energy, passion, and moves.
As I stumbled through learning my first steps, I got to know other dancers, as they were all really nice, helpful, and patient. It was also easy to get to know them because they came every week, and they appreciated my dedication as well. Before I knew it, something clicked, and I got the moves.
I learned to connect with different dancers through eye contact, hand movements, and smiles.
The steps were one thing, but the connection with your partner was another. I learned to connect with different dancers through eye contact, hand movements, and smiles. I became addicted to the music, the dancing, the crowd. I loved being a part of this scene, and it certainly helped me adjust to being so far away from my home in Los Angeles.
For many of you readers who feel far from home, the Salsa scene in Tokyo couldn’t be more welcoming. I interviewed Leo Kuo, an active member of the Salsa scene, and he shared with me invaluable information to help others participate in all the fun. Leo has been dancing since 2008, when he was studying at the University of Tokyo. He has been hooked ever since, and he has undoubtedly helped the scene grow, as he is zealous, social, and whole-hearted in his performances. He is also enthusiastic to invite newcomers to the scene.
Whether you are an experienced Salsa dancer or just starting out, you can “Mueve Mueve” through the city. You would never guess from the stoic expressions on the quiet, reserved train rides, but the Salsa scene here is lively, dedicated, and hot hot hot!
Most Salsa clubs start at 21:00 but give lessons an hour or two before that. Coming for the lesson would be a great way to learn some new moves and meet new people, and perhaps even practice your Japanese. If your Japanese isn’t that great, at least here you will learn how to communicate through dance.
Leo describes Studio Pepe as the “Mecca of Tokyo Salsa”. First timers are encouraged to attend on Saturdays, when the energy is at its best, and both Japanese and foreigners come together to dance the night away. Lessons are from 19:30 – 21:00 (1200 Yen), and the club ends at 1:00 (1500 Yen, which includes one drink). Other Salsa clubs you can check out are Salsa Caribe and El Cafe Latino, which follow a similar system to Studio Pepe’s.
This information is just the beginning. As you become more immersed in the scene, you will probably become more familiar with the crowd, learn about other dance locations, or even join a dance troupe. It just takes the first step of introducing yourself at one of the above mentioned clubs. Stick with it, and dance on!
For more information, email Leo Kuo (can speak English, Japanese, and Chinese).