Samui Wining & Dining
SAUCY SALSA
The sultry sounds of salsa can be heard around Samui. Talitha Elmendorp tells us what it’s all about.


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Salsa dancing may not be the first thing that springs to mind when thinking of activities on a Thai island. So, we chatted to Talitha Elmendorp to find out a little more about this trend that’s steadily growing on Samui.

        Firstly, for those not in the know, here’s a little background on salsa dancing and music, as explained by Talitha. “Latin social dancing is now one of the most popular dance styles all over the world, and is taking Asia by storm. It’s passionate, fun, interactive and great for socialising. Salsa music and dance, is known as a characteristic part of Latin Caribbean and Latin American culture, but has become more widespread as Latinos have migrated to other parts of the world. Salsa dancing has now evolved to a verified form of art, and there are many known sub-styles.”

        Talitha founded Latin dance on Samui about six years ago, after having studied dance back home in the Netherlands. Her family background is Dutch, Chinese and Indonesian, but besides speaking Dutch and Indonesian, she’s also fluent in Spanish. She began performing at 16 years of age with a hip-hop dance crew, and her first encounter with Latin music and dance was in The Dominican Republic, some 16 years ago.

         As Talitha explains, “After moving to Samui nine years ago, I missed the Latin social dance culture and found myself quickly getting bored with the mainstream ‘house and pop music’ and ‘lonely’ free style dance in the clubs. I wanted something more challenging, passionate, engaging and interactive. When I hear Latin music I can’t help but start to move. Since no one else was able to dance Salsa on Samui at the time, I started to teach it to a handful of individuals, simply so I could have a fun time dancing and listening to my favourite music. From there it took off, and more people became interested in finding out about Latin dance and taking classes.”

          Currently, Talitha is the main organiser of Latin dance parties and events on the island, and she’s the first to introduce celebrity and guest instructors from abroad and other parts of Thailand. She enthusiastically explains, “Recently, I’ve introduced, celebrity world DJ, Henry Knowles (from New York and Puerto Rico), who has played a significant part in the Latin music and dance industry, as well as being one of the pioneers of salsa DJs. Henry also has a long history of having produced events in New York, and has also produced recordings, which include one Grammy nomination, and has worked with the most influential top Latin music artists and performers, such as Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony.”

          Right, so if you fancy trying out a little hip swaying, where can you go? Well, you’ll find weekly classes and social dance parties on offer to Samui locals and visitors, and the Samui Salsa website will offer the most recent information. Beginners are more than welcome to attend the social parties and take the beginners’ dance class sessions.

          At a typical salsa dance party event you could expect to find some or all of the following elements: A free or paid beginner’s workshop, free dancing, usually featuring a DJ and/or a live band. You’ll also find line dancing with a dance instructor who’ll demonstrate the moves, which you can follow – also known as ‘animating’. Some zumba routines and dance performances are added at times to make it more fun. As Talitha says, “Salsa is popular on Samui for the same reason it’s popular all over the world. It’s fun, it’s spicy, and it’s a great avenue for socialising as well as meeting and interacting with new people. It’s different from the mainstream disco parties, as it’s something new and refreshing. The music is incredibly catchy and you feel compelled to move as soon as you hear it. The dance is challenging, yet very engaging and you can’t help but get hooked on it.”

          Leeta, as she’s known by friends and those in the salsa circle, still offers beginners’ courses in salsa and bachata as well as zumba fitness sessions and hip-hop classes. For the future, Leeta has some great plans in store for ‘Salsa Samui’, including holiday packages for Latin dancers, more high quality dance workshops by star instructors and a collaboration with the ‘Tango Samui’ dance community, as well as introducing other star entertainers, musicians and performers.

          “The biggest complaint I receive from Samui residents is that there’s a lack of quality entertainment and cultural influences. I would like to make a difference and bring a new influx of inspiration to our ever-improving paradise island”, says Talitha. And she seems to be doing that one beat at a time.

          

 Rosanne Turner


 


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