Music, dancing run jazz-cool and salsa-hot
Whether it’s hot salsa dancing or cool jazz sessions, entertainment at the Ramada Inn is making a mark on Glenwood’s night scene.On Monday nights, the 6th Street Bar & Grill in the lower level of the hotel features Jazz Open Mic Night with high school jazz musician Pablo Gorra from 7-9 p.m. The jazz night has acquired a faithful following by many of the valley’s most prominent jazz musicians, including Chris Bank, Tim Fox and Ashton Taufer, to name a few.Gorra, who plays saxophone and flute, started the jazz night in August. The idea stemmed from the jazz program he plays with at Glenwood Springs High School.”It’s a way for high school and middle school kids and professional musicians to play together,” said the 16-year-old Gorra. “I think it’s a really cool place for us to play in a low-key environment.”Gorra said the sessions have attracted up to 20 musicians at a time ready to play the soothing sounds of jazz, while people play billiards and Monday Night Football can be seen on the bar and grill’s TVs. Musicians ranging as young as middle school to those who have been playing for decades, such as longtime jazz artist Walter Hanselmann, enjoy the opportunity to learn from each other.”It’s a cool way to bridge the gap,” seventh-grader Isaac Lang said. “I like music, so that’s why I enjoy it.”Singer Gwen Hill of Glenwood Springs works at the Ramada and was motivated to give the Monday night jazz jam a try. She said she has been singing for 16 years.”I look at the sign all the time and say, ‘I’m going to come out and sing,'” she said. “I sing all different types of music, including soft rock, and I have some jazz experience. But it’s hard to sing and play jazz chords at the same time, so I came out.”Hill sang, “Autumn Leaves,” a number the band already knew, which is key, she said.”I picked one they know and I know,” she said. “That’s the trick.”Hill said she plans to keep practicing and attend future jazz nights.
The Ramada goes from chill jazz sounds on Mondays to fast-paced dance beats on Fridays, when Salsa Night takes over from 9:30 p.m. to 12 a.m. The evenings include free salsa lessons and a dance party with instructors Ricardo and Tere Hernandez. The talented power couple teaches salsa, which combines Cuban Son and Afro-Cuban dances. Much like the condiment of the same name, the salsa dance can get hot as couples embrace and move to the lively music spun on Friday nights by DJ Salson.”This is a dance for women,” Ricardo Hernandez said. “The men, we are just a prop.”During a recent lesson, Ricardo Hernandez taught first-time salsa dancer Joy Jepsen basic salsa moves, including the three-step weight change, where the dancer changes weight by stepping. The dance is sexy, with hips moving as the weight shifts. Once Jepsen had the rhythm, she seemed to catch on quickly, looking like an experienced salsa dancer.”This is a whole new thing to me,” she said, dancing with Hernandez with palms pressed against each other to get comfortable with the foot movements. “It helps to have a teacher who’s the boss.”Tere Hernandez said the Friday night lessons and dance party have been popular, with couples enjoying the sultry dancing as well as singles coming to dance and meet new people.”It’s for everybody,” she said. “You don’t need a partner. We try to make friends and have a good time for everybody.” As with every week, this Friday the lights will drop low and the dancers will connect through the pounding rhythms of the music. Salsa music typically features festive instruments such as congas, timbales, piano, tres guitar, bongos, claves, and cowbell to accompany the dancing. And who doesn’t need more cowbell in their lives?”We play music mostly from Latin America,” Tere Hernandez said. “It’s like a mix … we also play merengue from the Dominican Republic. More of the tropical rhythms.”Ricardo and Tere Hernandez have been dancing competitively for the last 20 years. Ricardo learned early on from watching his parents. Tere said she has been dancing all her life. Her mother and father were salsa dancers, and left a lasting impression – especially on Ricardo.”Growing up, I could never picture my dad dancing, but he and my mom, whoa,” he said. “And my in-laws, her mom and dad, they were incredible dancers.”Creating an atmosphere where couples and singles can embrace dance with no reservations is Ricardo and Tere’s goal as they get the crowd moving every Friday.”It creates a nice community,” Ricardo said. “We are not just a dancing thing, we are also a group of people that like to help and benefit each other.” The Friday night sessions, which Ricardo describes as going into the wee hours of the morning, are just crowded enough. There is room to learn with an air of intimacy. Many dancers trickle over from the Monday night drop-in class from 7-9 p.m. at the Glenwood Springs Community Center. On a recent Monday night, about seven people joined the class, arriving separately, to dance and continuously switch partners. Richie Marks, of New Castle, said he attends every Monday at the community center and Friday at the Ramada to enjoy salsa. He practiced with friend Paola Valenti, a professional Latin dancer who teaches Zumba dance in Glenwood Springs and Carbondale. “It keeps him in good shape,” Valenti said about Marks’ passion for salsa dance.The comment brought a smile to Marks’ face as the two scurried off to the dance floor to move to the clave rhythm.
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