If you ask Julio Montero, everyone could use a little more Cuban Salsa in their lives.
The Vancouver-based Salsa instructor is offering weekly Salsa classes on Bowen this fall. The first class sold out immediately but there’s still space in the Monday evening classes starting at 8 p.m. at Cates Hill Chapel.
Bowen Islanders David Adams and Vaune Kolber were Montero’s students on the mainland and had the idea of classes on Bowen. “I was like, ‘I’d be happy to make a contribution to my fellow Islanders,’” says Montero.
“I am already programmed to start revolutions everywhere I go,” he jokes. “But this time we’re doing a cultural revolution.”
The classes start at the beginner level and the hope is to build a community of Salsa dancers in the long term, as Montero has done teaching Salsa in Vancouver for nearly 20 years.
When it comes to Cuban Salsa, people are signing up for a lifestyle, says Montero. “This is a dance that it’s actually a nation’s cultural legacy,” he says. “You go to Cuba, and you will find people dancing the way I teach the dance.”
Montero learned to dance in boarding school in Cuba. “In my school, if you didn’t know how to dance Salsa, you were a nobody,” he says. The dance becomes very important in Cubans’ late teens, particularly for those attending boarding schools. “That’s when we start partying and that’s when you want to learn because you want to meet people and you want to have fun,” he says. “It’s a beautiful dance, but it’s very appealing, in many ways.”
Teaching dancing in Canadian high schools is a different experience. “It is difficult to get the kids encouraged to dance and they don’t want to hold hands,” Montero says. In this, the instructor sees something missing in social skills – a gap that social dancing could fill. “On top of that, internet, and social media and all these apps and stuff, they tend to pull us further apart from other people.
“As an immigrant, I’m very happy and proud to do this, because I think it’s a great contribution that I can make,” says Montero. “We have all of this material wealth. We are an affluent society, but we also need a wealth of spiritual things. Things of this sort, that enrich our lives in a non-material way.”
“[Salsa] is also very popular dance around the world. We Cubans, we are spread all over the world,” he says. “Everywhere we go, we bring our culture and we get people dancing.”
It’s not a dance about acrobatics or flashy moves, says Montero. “It’s a dance form that is easily accessible to anyone, regardless of your age.” Even his elderly mother still dances.
“It’s like learning how to ride a bicycle. Once you learn it, you don’t forget. It is yours, and it’s yours for you to enjoy on your last day.
“That constant connection with people through dance will get even better as we get out of the COVID pandemic – it’s going to enhance the already good lifestyle of Bowen Islanders.”
The classes start with a $110 four-week beginners program Sept. 13 (so students commit to that series of classes) and then move onto beginner level two and intermediate and so on. There’ll also be a monthly dance social.
To register or find more information, visit Montero's website.
COVID-19 note: under provincial regulations, all participants must be vaccinated.