After the tables and chairs were cleared from the back room of Longbranch Coffeehouse, Solomon Hailu began to clear Longbranch Coffee started to teach one of his favorite hobbies: the salsa dance.
After an hour Saturday night, the lessons were over and fun was about to begin. More people came, excitement on their faces, and danced the night away.
In order to enjoy salsa to its fullest, Longbranch delivers a non-alcoholic environment every Saturday evening, which best suits dancing, said Hailu, a doctoral student studying biology from Asmara, Eritrea.
Hailu said he enjoys teaching salsa, as he also teaches at the Recreation Center.
The salsa is a famous dance in Latin cultures, he said.
According to a Washington Post article, the salsa is a dance reminiscent of the mamba step from the ’50s, done in a 4/4 beat.
Hailu said it is a great feeling to see people with no dancing ability grow and become excellent dancers from his teaching.
He said it’s that feeling that makes him want to keep contributing to the community.
With other people stepping in to help inexperienced dancers, the environment is friendly enough to welcome people of all dancing abilities, he said.
“You feel right at home here,” Hailu said.
While he started as a regular attendee, Saturday night host Aur Beck watched over the dancers.
“It amazes me how quickly students learn,” he said.
Beck said he has been attending Salsa Night at Longbranch since 1999, a year after the event first started.
He said an opportunity eventually opened up for him to become a host for the event because he attended so frequently.
Beck said he looks for a place to salsa dance wherever he goes.
People come to have fun with others of all ages, he said. Competition is not taken seriously, and that is what makes salsa night at Longbranch one of the best salsa clubs around, he said.
“People come here solely for one thing: to dance,” Beck said.
The fun environment attracted Carbondale-based DJ Craig Johnson.
Longbranch got him into salsa dancing, he said.
“The amont of money I’m making (at salsa night) is almost like volunteering,” Johnson said.
The warm environment and the chance to meet new people is what entices him to keep performing, he said.
Johnson said he likes the exercise salsa provides and prefers it more than the gym.
“Beats going to the gym any day,” he said.