Catch the Latin dancing fever

Gran Baile Latino held monthly

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The room fills up by about 11 p.m. when the restaurants close and their Latino employees, arms full of CDs, wander into RG's Dance Club on 11th Street.

The CDs stack up at Summer Laws' DJ station as attendees bring music from their native countries -- Salsa, Cumbia, Tejano and Conjunto music, Meringue, Norteña and other high-energy Latin dance music.

The monthly dance night, called Gran Baile Latino (translated as "big Latin dance"), started out of a conversation this summer at Epilogue Book Co. Every Wednesday, a group of English and Spanish speakers meet to practice conversations in each other's languages.

"One night, we were listening to music and translating the lyrics," Laws said. "We started talking about how nice it would be if there was a place to dance to Latin music."

Laws approached Robin Getter about using her space once a month. Getter opened The Center for Movement Arts to the first Gran Baile Latino in August.

They didn't advertise, but the word spread quickly.

"That first night, the place was full," Laws said.

Saturday's dance night will be the third, and its momentum-gaining success has organizers thinking about holding two dance nights a month beginning in November.

Attendance is about 80 percent Latino, Laws said. "In the beginning it was mostly guys, because word was spreading through the workplace. But now it's more of a balanced group."

Anyone is welcome to bring music.

"People bring things that you can't buy from the store because they brought them from Mexico," Laws said.

Attendees have been giving informal dance lessons for people who want to learn.

"I didn't know much when I started coming," Laws said. "But if you're willing to dance, there's always someone to dance with, and the leader can teach you."

Students from Getter's Salsa Rueda class have been attending the dance nights, and Laws has enjoyed seeing the mixing of groups and cultures.

"A lot of people have gotten to know each other through these nights," she said. "It's just so much fun and, for a moment, you feel like you're in a different place."

-- To reach Autumn Phillips call 871-4210

or e-mail aphillips@steamboatpilot.com

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