When Cesar Romero came to Santa Monica from Mexico City twenty years ago, salsa dancing was the way he found community and a sense of belonging in his new home. Now, he is on a mission to share his passion for the dance form with others and help make it more accessible, starting with an upcoming free outdoor salsa event on the pier.
Romero first got involved in Santa Monica’s salsa scene several years after his arrival to the U.S. when he was rollerblading with a friend along the beach and heard a familiar sound coming from the old Boathouse restaurant on the pier.
“All of a sudden I heard salsa music and my heart got so happy because I love salsa music – I used to dance salsa and cumbia in Mexico,” he said. “I told my friend, ‘let’s go check it out’… so we started walking to the little window and I looked in there and I was seeing people dancing and my face literally lightened.”
He convinced his friend to go in and dance and from then on he returned week after week until the Boathouse closed in 2002 and was replaced by Bubba Gump.
While the salsa community is still alive and active in the L.A. area, Romero said had always wanted to see it return to the pier.
This dream became a reality when he met fellow Santa Monica resident Michelle Edgar at salsa night at the Victorian on Main Street. A relative newcomer to the salsa scene with a passion for community building, Edgar immediately got behind Romero’s vision and came up with the idea of incorporating salsa into the monthly Local’s Night event on the pier.
After working with organizers and recruiting local dance instructors and DJs, Romero and Edgar are ready to debut Salsa on the Pier at the March 16 Local’s Night on the east deck next to the carousel. The event will kick off at 5 p.m. with an hour of music and dancing, followed by a beginners salsa lesson taught by Romero and fellow dancer Nicole Gil at 6 p.m. and then two more hours of music and social dancing from 7 to 9 p.m. Edgar’s organization The XX Project is sponsoring the event.
While there are salsa events that take place at different clubs and bars in the L.A. area every night of the week, Edgar said she feels Salsa on the Pier will uniquely contribute to the current landscape.
“To be able to complement and create an outdoor experience, something different from all these existing but really connected with and rooted in the community, in the city – that’s really what we want to be doing,” she said. “To really complement what’s already existing.”
Salsa on the Pier is designed to be family friendly and accessible to all skill levels and ages. For those who don’t wish to dance themselves, there is seating available to sit and watch.
Romero and Edgar have plans to continue to help grow the salsa community in Santa Monica through a new business venture, Salsa Way. Through Salsa Way they want to organize more local, accessible events and get more people dancing.
“What I really hope to see is people from all walks of life and that salsa, the power of dance, becomes accessible to all,” Edgar said.