Holy City Salsa hosts monthly social dance events for beginners and experienced dancers alike. The evening starts with a crash course in salsa basics, followed by hours of free dance to Latin music. | Credit: Tiffany Hicks Photography

There’s a thriving subculture of Latin dance in Charleston. You might not realize there are quite a few spots where you can regularly bring a partner or go solo to dance salsa and bachata every week — including downtown’s Forte Jazz Lounge on Tuesdays, Summerville’s Thai Taco on Saturdays, and King Street restaurant Mesu every Thursday with music by Latin Groove.

If you’re a newcomer to the scene, you might want to dip your toes in at the beginner-friendly dance studio Holy City Salsa, which celebrates its seventh anniversary this month.

Since Georgia Schrubbe founded Holy City Salsa in 2016, she’s taught hundreds of Charlestonians how to dance with a partner. One of the things she loves most about social dance is how it’s a language without words, one that can connect people of many cultures and backgrounds.

“People are dancing salsa all over the world — not just in Latin America. I went to a salsa event in Paris a few years ago, and there were people from every continent!” Schrubbe said.

She said beginners through seasoned dancers are welcome at Holy City Salsa classes. There’s a six-week beginner course where no special clothing or shoes are needed. (And there’s an online course if you’d prefer to start at home.)

Salsa is naturally a community-driven activity, Schrubbe said, as it requires dancing with a partner.

“We rotate partners throughout class, so you can come solo. Just wear something comfortable that you can move in,” Schrubbe said. “You’ll learn a new skill, move your body, meet new people and have fun in these group class sessions.”

After closing a brick-and-mortar downtown studio in 2020, Holy City Salsa classes are now held at Amorous Dance at 1706 Old Towne Road in West Ashley.

The benefits go beyond just learning to dance though, Schrubbe said.

“There’s been a lot of research done on the benefits of learning how to social dance for aging. It’s really good for your brain. And even if you’re not thinking about long term mental health, I think in the short term, it’s super valuable too — we always joke that dance is cheaper than therapy.

“For me, dance has always been a place in a time where you are just 100% present.
… I see it as a type of meditation.”

Monthly social events

Holy City Salsa hosts a monthly social dance event. It starts with a 45-minute beginner salsa class, followed by an open dance floor with Latin music where everyone dances together (or enjoys the vibe from the sidelines, or at the cash bar — if that’s more your thing).

“Some people love it and immediately they are hooked,” Schrubbe said. “If you’re coming into it for the first time, you just can’t be too worried about what other people think about you. I think being open minded is a good way to come in.”

The night starts with the beginner class, where instructors go slowly through the basics of salsa. Once you’ve got the basic steps, the friends you’ve made in class are a great place to start on the dance floor, Schrubbe said.

“You get a chance to meet a dozen, two dozen people in class, and then when it goes into the free dance, you can ask them to dance, and you’ve already got a bit of a connection formed with someone you just met.”

When you find your groove, you can spend the next few hours dancing the night away.

Schrubbe said she hopes that folks who come out and learn social dance at Holy City Salsa will gain a new skill that can help them connect with people from all over the world.

“People are dancing salsa and bachata and all these rhythms like all over the world. So it’s pretty cool that if you get plugged into this community here, you’re going to be able to get plugged in anywhere you go. You can go and find somewhere where there’s people dancing and you’d be among friends. I think that’s just a really special part of it.”

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