Silvia Yacoubian didn’t see much of a salsa community when she moved to Frederick 22 years ago.
So she created one.
In 2009, she started a Meetup called Frederick Salsa that held events at the now-defunct Danielle’s restaurant. The group now meets to dance at Vini Culture on the second and fourth Thursdays at 9 p.m. Yacoubian starts off each night by giving a short salsa lesson 15 minutes prior to the event.
The group also sometimes meets for other social events, like volleyball, because they have grown to become such a close-knit community.
Yacoubian is ramping up the group even further recently with the addition of the monthly Hispanic Cultural Night & Dance at Sky Stage, in partnership with the Frederick Arts Council. Latin dances, such as salsa, bachata and an Angolan dance called kizomba, are often performed at the monthly event.
Afro-Peruvian dancers will be featured at this month’s Sky Stage event on June 21. Yacoubian described Afro-Peruvian percussion as a rhythm that is driven by a cajón, a box drum that musicians sit on while playing. “Afro-Peruvian music is so infectious,” Yacoubian said. “You just hear it and dance. Peru has different kinds of folk music, but Afro-Peruvian is my favorite.”
Yacoubian said the salsa group is multicultural and made up of people from different walks of life — doctors, food service workers, attorneys and janitors alike meet to dance.
“Salsa is the kind of music where it doesn’t matter what country you’re from, what culture you’re from,” Yacoubian said. “When you hear it, you can’t help but want to dance.”
Author César Miguel Rondón, in “The Book of Salsa,” explained the transnational origins of salsa. This music flourished in New York barrios where Latinos lived in the 1960s and ‘70s. The music and dance emerged at a time when Puerto Ricans were forming a New York identity known as Nuyoricans. Rondón believed that salsa is a much rawer, pared down version of Cuban big-band music with aggressive horns and Afro-Latino rhythms.
Yacoubian, whose family has roots in Peru, is no stranger to salsa, even before taking dance classes 15 years ago. “Being Hispanic, you grow up going to barbecues or parties or family gatherings and you hear it. Everybody dances generically to it. But it wasn’t until much later that I actually started taking [salsa dance] classes myself [to] fine-tune [the] dance.
“I learned there’s much more to it,” she said. “It’s all about following the music and letting your feet move to the music with different patterns and different moves, and it progressively gets more complicated the more you learn the patterns and turns.”
Yacoubian tries to create an inclusive atmosphere at her lessons, and newcomers are encouraged to come even without a partner.
At Frederick Salsa’s recent volleyball event at Urbana District Park, Henry Le said he’s not a fan of Sky Stage’s concrete floor, but he doesn’t mind weathering his shoes for the sake of salsa. “There’s nothing like dancing outdoors.”
Silvia Alvarado, another Frederick Salsa member at the volleyball event, shared what makes salsa and Sky Stage so special to her. “What I tell everybody when I invite them to come is that it’s dancing with the stars.” Alvarado is a nature lover and enjoys Sky Stage’s open-air venue.
Alvarado has attended Frederick Salsa events for a year and a half and spoke with other Frederick salsa members like old friends. “We’re a family here,” she said.