Latin dancing and Harrisburg may not seem like natural partners, but local dance studios say that interest in salsa, bachata and other styles is on the rise.
Two years ago, Jennifer Mercado and Ben Heikenfeld created Leonetti Entertainment, a studio that teaches Latin dance classes and holds monthly Latin nights with a local DJ at Camelot Ballroom Dance School in Steelton. Their students range from ages 14 to 74, a mix of ethnicities from all over south-central Pa.
“We really take our time with teaching you,” Mercado said. “It’s a family environment where you can build relationships with everyone.”
Their students have performed at events like the Allison Hill Multicultural Festival and with Alma Latina, a dance team founded in Tijuana, Mexico, with chapters in several cities across the United States and Mexico.
Across the river, Always Time for Dancing, a studio in Camp Hill, teaches Latin and ballroom lessons. Led by Mandy Kuhn Iglesias, the venue also holds monthly Latin nights, in which students take a class in a specific dance and stay for a dance party.
“I feel that few people have a place that they can call their own, where they can feel comfortable,” Iglesias said. “So, we’re still doing the ballroom classes and things like that but also creating a community connections-type of studio.”
In Harrisburg, Level 2 has become the go-to venue for Latin dance with its Latin Fuzion Fridays, featuring such DJs as Nestor (June 8) and El Nino (June 15). June 15 also happens to be 3rd in the Burg, when Iglesias teaches Latin classes at Level 2. The classes, which precede the event, are an hour long, and, afterwards, many students stay to dance the night the away. This month, the two classes, which begins at 9 p.m., will focus on beginner and intermediate salsa.
But you can discover more than standard dance forms. Modern Latin dance also thrives, heavily influenced by the music industry. Newer dances like kizomba and zouk were made for clubs, and dance studios are incorporating those styles into their offerings, as well.
“Don’t be afraid to try something new,” Mercado said.