Upham's Corner Online

Salsa and Merengue, Spanish Dancing at the Uphams Corner Branch Library Oct 25, 2012

Salsa in the Park (SITP)

 MetaMovementsMetaMovements is a dancing/gymnastics company in the Boston area,  led by Anara Piers Frank. Their goal is to help participants attain the "metamorphosis" they seek in their own fitness level and through the medium of dance.

One of their more popular offerings is "Salsa in The Park."  Taking over the patio in front of the Blackstone Community Center, MetaMovements enable 300-500 salsa lovers to dance under the stars.     A deeply rooted urban environment with basketball courts, limited parking and children playing everywhere, the Blackstone Community Center's the dance floors heat up in the park as the night air cools off and the stars come out.

Dancing outside under the stars is so appealing, Salsa in the Park often saw 300-500 people participating.  SITP is also a way to give back to the community. Dancers volunteer all summer, donating their time to teach dance lessons to adults and children, set up dance floors, assist with event staffing, maintain a recycling program, and clean up from the festivities until late into the evening.


MetaMovements in Uphams Corner

Merengue and salsa in the Library But that is not what MetaMovements was doing in Uphams Corner. 

Kudos to the Boston Public Library, Main Branch, for sponsoring MetaMovements to come out to the UC Library on Oct 25 to teach salsa  - dancing and playing instruments. 

Scheduled in association with Hispanic Heritage Month (Sep 15 - Oct 15), "Salsa in the Library" provided an introduction to Salsa hand-held percussive instruments.  MetaMovements also lead participants in four different Latin-style dances, starting with Salsa.

According to Salsa is Good, salsa (historically) finds its roots in Cuba.  African rhythms brought there by slaves mixed with various forms of popular Spanish music and this generated a number of different new music styles.  Salsa literally means the "sauce" that creates the character of Spanish food.  You can think of it also as indicating how ingredients were mixed to obtain a new, rich flavour of music. 

Particularly interesting is the fact that modern salsa is a product of New York in the 70's, so heavily influenced by the increasing Latino population.  Not stopping there, the evolving musical style journeyed back and forth to Cuba and Puerto Rico and the US again, providing a cultural exchange that matured the music.

Salsa is now an international dance, having exploded far beyond its original 'Caribbean' borders. Top bands nowadays come from Puerto Rico as well as from Japan, Senegal, France and even Finland. Salsa competitions are at times won by 'western' and even Asian dancers. This is nothing but a natural result of the widespread development of any form of art.

Uphams Corner Branch Library Prepares for Fun

Moving everything (tables, chairs, etc) away from the center of the library, the staff prepared well for an event that normally happens in gymnasiums or dance halls.  MetaMovements brought their entourage of dance teachers and hand-held percussive salsa instruments including congas, bongos, maracas, guiros and claves.

Except for the congas, a paired set of tall drums, which produce salsa's lowest-frequency rhythms, MetaMovements encouraged participants to try out all the salsa instruments to learn the basics of salsa rhythms.

The most important instrument is the clave, two wooden rods of differing size which the player strikes together to produce a percussive tone.   Why is it so important?  According to the Salsa Musicality Blogspot, the salsa instruments nearly always tie into the clave pattern, including the bass and the piano. The clave establishes the fundamental key to the music/beat. Pair of Claves

Two different clave beats are the standard in salsa music and are differentiated by the "direction" of the clave, either 2/3 or 3/2.  Either way, whether the clave instrument is present or not, salsa music is based around the clave.

Without going into the technicalities of how two measures of 4/4 time allow percussive instruments to strike only three beats, suffice it to say that counting in different patterns from 1 to 8 is how the salsa rhythm for each instrument was taught.  And it worked very well. The participants, now avid students of dance rhythms, learned how to play the instrument in hand.  After a short learning period, the group played together and it was amazing.  Energizing.

Maracas Maracas are rattles, originally of hollow gourds filled with beads, though now often made of hide or plastic. Volume and pitch are set by the size and shape of capsule and bead material. The maracas are matched as a sexed pair; the higher pitched being the macho (male), and the lower being the hembra (female).

The güiro is a single large gourd scored with horizontal grooves on one side, and holes cut into the other so that it can be held. Sound is created by running a small-diameter rod, held horizontally, over the grooves to produce a ratcheting sound. The gourd version is notoriously fragile but güiros are also available in plastic, fibreglass and wood.

Clave are consist of a pair of turned hardwood rods which are struck together. They are matched as sexed pairs, one higher in pitch than the other. Other interesting sounds are possible if the higher pitched stick is carved out to form a resonating chamber.

The bongos are a matched set of two small- to medium-sized drums, made from wood or fiberglass. Each set features drums of different size to produce two distinct tones.

The congas are tall drums, ranging from 28 to 32 inches in height. The player uses both hands to produce salsa's lowest-frequency rhythms.

Merengue - Taught and Performed

From Salsa is Good, we learn that Merengue is the musical icon of the Dominican Republic and is still a purely Dominican tradition.  In the Dominican Republic, it is everywhere:  Radio, shops, taxis, nightclubs, streets. As with Salsa, the roots come from the African rhythm brought to the Dominican Republic by African slaves.  Simpler than other Spanish music, merengue is played in two beats with heavy accents on the strong beat; this makes the music relatively simple.

Basic merengue movements are easy to learn but they don't remain basic for very long.  Nonetheless, with the instruments and chairs out of the way and the full dance floor available to those "stepping out," the music, the descriptive callouts to the dancers and the teacher's model dancing all led to a group of strangers swaying and moving as if they had been company / friends forever.

Dancing loosens up the body, frees the mind, takes your cares away and leaves you laughing and smiling.

Not to be outdone by the locals, two of the best MetaMovements dancers provided a powerful performance of the merengue, she adorned in a bright red dress that swirled to the turns and rhythmic movements of the music and the dance moves.  Breathtaking, sensual, artistic and mesmerizing... 

Thanks to the Boston Public Library and Uphams Corner Branch

Without doubt, "Salsa in the Library" was one of the best attended and most enthusiastically received Uphams Corner Library events.  Our thanks go out to MetaMovements and their great teachers and staff.  Note the comment they made in their blog - that this type of event is "community building," which is what every community can use, not the least of which is Uphams Corner.

MetaMovements Message

A great big thanks to the BPL for sponsoring MetaMovements, and, hey, let's plan to do this every month.

Photos on two pages show the level of participation, the enthusiastic and engaged participants and, for the performance, a clear indication of professional salsa dancing in our midst.  Photos below focus on the group learning to play salsa instruments. 

Be sure to look at the photos on page 2 as well which shows the group dancing the merengue and the extraordinary performance from MetaMovements.

Salsa at the Uphams Corner Library Salsa at the Uphams Corner Library
Salsa at the Uphams Corner Library Salsa at the Uphams Corner Library Salsa at the Uphams Corner Library
Salsa at the Uphams Corner Library Salsa at the Uphams Corner Library
Salsa at the Uphams Corner Library Salsa at the Uphams Corner Library
Salsa at the Uphams Corner Library Salsa at the Uphams Corner Library

Top of Photos Page 1
 View Photos Page 2


Tue, Nov 20, 2012 at 12:50 PM

Thank you, Nancy, as always, for publicizing Uphams Corner Branch's adult events. Uphams Corner News' in depth coverage of 'Salsa in the Library' was appreciated.  Have a good Thanksgiving.

Elise Orringer

Posted: November 3, 2012     Nancy J Conrad

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