by Maya

If you live in the Bay Area you pretty much know where to direct your salsa dancing shoes. But if
you are a beginner, a tourist, or you've been out of the scene for a while, read on.

So, it's the most boring day of the week and you don't know where to chase your blues away. No sweat. ALBERTO'S nightclub in Mountain View features Monday night salsa.

Since Cafe du Nord is now defunct, the only game in town on Tuesdays is THE GLAS KAT which became popular as soon as it opened. The nice atmosphere, friendly management, tasteful decor and many special promotions including free drinks and ladies' nights, appeal to a broad range of people.

There is a live salsa band at the tiny PIER 23 every Wednesday. (Call to confirm) This is the only club in town that does not charge a cover for its salsa night. And in spite of its small dance floor and the competition from ROCCAPULCO and CARIBBEAN GARDENS (both with DJ only) PIER 23 keeps its faithful following.
In the East Bay, KIMBALL'S CARNIVAL continues its Wednesday salsa dancing.

The ELBO ROOM offers live salsa, but not every week; you have to check their schedule. JILLIAN'S is a huge restaurant with a large dance floor and three big video screens. It attracts mostly young crowds. The most popular club on Thursdays (and Saturdays) remains CAFE COCOMO which did not lose its following even after the initial success of Jillian's. The owners keep improving the decor; a fairly large dance floor was extended to the bar and a smaller floor was added on the balcony; a multitude of special promotions including no cover nights with free food (great Indian and multicultural delicacies) and friendly attitude towards customers assure the return of salsa dancers of all ages. In July COCOMO will break the back wall and the adjoining hall will almost double its space which will alleviate crowding as its popularity keeps increasing.

ROCCAPULCO used to be the only game in town on Fridays in San Francisco. However, you won't see a lot of very good dancers here in spite of it having the biggest dance floor in the city. KIMBALL'S CARNIVAL offers salsa on Fridays . With improved sound and warmer decor it will become much more attractive to salseros. For South Bay residents there is CARIBBEAN GARDENS in Burlingame. If you are up in Marin, check out club FUSETTI'S in San Rafael. If you don't mind driving or if you are near Mountain View, your best bet is ALBERTO'S.

Those who live in the East Bay might favor KIMBALL'S CARNIVAL in Oakland or MAIKO'S in Berkeley. But you should see CAFE COCOMO on Saturdays: it's packed! People line up at the door even after midnight. If they put speakers in their nice courtyard some folks would dance there, guaranteed! (see Thursday for additional information about COCOMO). From about May to November THE RAMP in San Francisco offers salsa dancing with live bands on Saturday afternoons from 4 to 8pm. Dancing in the fresh air attracts a lot of people in spite of a small cracked concrete floor. Besides, who can beat the $5 cover charge?

JELLY'S has been a San Francisco hangout for ages. It has its faithful clientele who like a relaxed atmosphere for the afternoon salsa. However, a small floor and crowded, poorly ventilated environment deter many skillful dancers. For salseros of all sexual orientations EL RIO has salsa on the patio from 4 to 8pm from April to November.
Not tired of dancing yet? Want to shake your booty before going to work on Monday? Then the ALLEGRO BALLROOM in Emeriville is another choice. It's not a club, they don't serve liquor, but the $6 cover charge ($10 if you want the lessons) includes DJ dancing and snacks.
Besides these main salsa clubs, there are others that offer salsa music along with other dancing styles, such as the SOUND FACTORY and others. These clubs attract primarily younger crowds.

If you're serious about salsa and want to take lessons you're in luck. Almost all the clubs include free lessons in their cover charge. There is a great variety of instructors with unique styles that complement each other, so you might as well try them all and see which ones you prefer. Always innovative Ricardo, who comes up with many interesting moves, teaches at Alberto's and The Glas Kat. Also at Alberto's on Tuesdays the multi-talented John and Liz might show you
some "head-dropping" tricks (literally!) A legend in California's salsa scene, Alex DaSilva gives lessons at Roccapulco on Wednesdays. Winners of multiple salsa competitions, Ava and Luis offer their classes there on Fridays. Butter smooth Jake and his partner Techi teach at Cafe Cocomo and Kimball's Carnival. Talented (and boyishly charming) Joseph Gallardo takes Jake's place at Kimball's Carnival on Wednesdays. Joel and his gorgeous partner Sorcy give lessons at Kimball's Carnival on Saturdays. The Allegro Ballroom offers 2 hour lessons (beginner and intermediate) with Garry and Isabelle who also teach at Maiko's.

Call the clubs directly to confirm all dates and times, or check their websites. Happy dancing!
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