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Salsa fever hits St. Albert

St. Albert Latin Cultural Association hosts a night of Latin music with eight-piece band Esquina Latina and dance instructor Irina Feldesh
Competitive ballroom dancer Irina Feldesh is teaching a free salsa class at Fiesta Latina on Saturday, June 3 at St. Albert United Church. SUPPLIED

It's a Latin America tradition for community musicians to congregate on block corners and spontaneously play for surrounding neighbours. 

Canadian laws and weather differ. We don’t see that kind of spontaneity. However, St. Albert Latin Cultural Association (SALCA) offers the next best thing. Fiesta Latina is a bootie-shakin' Latin dance party on Saturday, June 3 at St. Albert United Church. 

It’s an opportunity to celebrate the vibrancy of tropical Latin cultures with authentic Latin cuisine, a dance lesson and mucho colourful music performed by Manny V. Y Su Esquina Latina band. Translated into English, Esquina Latina means Latin Corner. 

Led by Manny Valencia, the eight-piece band is a stellar lineup of musicians prepared to transform St. Albert’s regal church into a hotbed of tropical Latin music and fun. Representing El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Venezuela, these high-energy salceros play a full repertoire with extra covers thrown into the mix from Colombia, Puerto Rico and Cuba. 

“In terms of quality, Esquina Latina’s musicians are highly professional, well-educated and very versatile. We complete each other. We all have different backgrounds and work together as a group. Since 2017 when we started, it’s become more than music. It’s a brotherhood, and that speaks volumes. Our priority is showcasing Latin culture and art, and we take great pride in it,” said Valencia, a percussionist and conga player.  

Latin music has become mainstream, and many Canadians who have traveled south and heard the sensuous sounds, are attracted to its rhythms. But suppose you want to join in and dance but don’t know how. Irina Feldesh, a St. Albert dance instructor, offers a 45-minute salsa lesson.  

Born in Belarus, Feldesh has perfected competitive ballroom dancing over a 30-year period. She specializes in salsa, bachata and kizomba. Part of the regional dance community for more than two decades, Feldesh has a broad understanding of ballroom dance complexities. 

“I thought salsa was the best dance to teach for the clientele attending. It’s very energizing. If you deal with a lot of non dancers, it’s easier to get them dancing to salsa. It is infectious. It’s joyful. The moment you hear salsa music, your body wants to move,” Feldesh said. 

At one time or another, she’s worked with every Latin band in the region. 

“Manny’s repertoire is more varied than others. If you’re introducing Latin music to a new crowd, you have to have artists that can play more than one tone. Other bands are focused on merengue or cumbia. If you want a band for a salsa-centric event, Manny’s band is better than others because they have a bigger repertoire and they already have a strong following.” 

Two authentic Latin dishes are also Included in the ticket price. The first dish is Mexican tacos al pastor (shepherd) and the second is chacarero, a Chilean steak and green bean sandwich with a secret salsa. The individually priced dessert is a classic Pastel de Piña, a delicacy similar to a pineapple upside down cake. 

This event is an important fundraiser for SALCA’s outdoor summer festival taking place at Lions Park on Saturday,  August 19. Organizers are hoping to raise $1,200 to pay for musician costs. 

Jorge Vargas, executive director of SALCA, concluded by saying, “We really want to have an energetic evening where people not only listen to music, but also participate in dancing. We really encourage people to come to this event and take a dance lesson. You will be fully immersed in music, food and fun. Park your problems at the door and spend an evening laughing.” 

The evening starts at 7 p.m. St. Albert United Church is at 20 Green Grove Drive. Online tickets are $25 and are available at Door tickets are $30. 

Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

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