Chicks and Salsa
Salsa music conjures images of virile men spinning graceful women on the dance floor, a sexual pantomime of a man trying to seduce a woman while she pushes him away, only to encourage him to try again.
It depicts unresolved sexual tension between a man and a woman in their traditional gender roles. A vibrant, African-inspired dance in which the man always leads, no questions asked.
So then why is Omar Alvarado flamboyantly dancing with two men, spinning one man under his arm before switching to the second man?
"The women don't get here until later," explains the 24-year-old instructor, who gives free dance lessons every Wednesday at Axis/Radius to kick off Latin Rhythm Night, the midweek event when throngs of Latinos converge to drink, dance and flirt.
The lessons start at 8:30 p.m., but on this particular night, people are apparently running on Latin time. Besides the two men receiving lessons from Alvarado, the club is virtually empty.
But maybe that's because it's just recently that Axis/Radius resurrected its Latin-theme night from its previous Tuesday night spot after a several-month hiatus.
It turns out the two men dancing with Alvarado are professional dancers themselves, trained in ballet, not in salsa.
Victor Gamez and Ismael Gaytan say they feel the music's passion, whether they're leading or being led. They just need to get the technique down.
Lucky for them, Alvarado has more moves than Kobe Bryant on a basketball court and in a hotel room, combined. He is a poor man's Ricky Martin, a pobre suave from Mexico City trying to eke out a living as a dance instructor.
But despite Alvarado's finesse on the dance floor, Leonardo Canta, who shows up at 9:10 p.m., prefers to watch rather than participate in the lessons when he realized it would require him to dance with another man.
"Maybe I'll pick it up at a later time," he tells Alvarado before grabbing a table by the bar.
At 9:45 p.m., the first woman, Emily Mirabelli, steps on the dance floor and Alvarado immediately whisks her away. Meanwhile, her date, Bill Lee, stands nearby, paying close attention to Alvarado's feet while shuffling his own.
The lessons end at 10 p.m. and suddenly three couples appear on the dance floor. Sensing the presence of females, Canta approaches the dance floor and quickly finds a partner. Turns out he didn't need any lessons, after all.
At 10:50, the Latin band Atrapadostakes the stage, giving the growing crowd a dose of salsa, cumbia and rock. En español, of course.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Phoenix dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.