Rising Like the Phoenix from the Ashes

Phoenix? Ashes?? What does that have to do with Salsa dancing??? Give it a minute…I’ll get there.

When I returned from Kuala Lumpur to Da Nang begin of August, I had big plans! Inspired by what I had experienced in KL, I wanted to create a similar Salsa scene in Da Nang. I wanted to have a dance social focused mainly on Salsa, similar to my last dance night in KL. Oh boy! My timing couldn’t have been worse! Nevertheless, I started some prep work while still in KL: I setup this website, created a FB fan page, had a logo designed….

Back in Da Nang I started to go to the local socials…and I was shocked! They were all EMPTY! And I mean REALLY EMPTY! Mick, a good natured bloke who had just appeared on the scene shortly before I left to KL, was trying his best to keep the socials alive, but they were all hanging on by a thread. 3-5 dancers not more. Long faces everywhere…total waste of time!

What had happened? Everybody has different explanations why the dance scene in Da Nang had disintegrated so much, but here’s my theory: Vietnam authorities had decided that post-COVID, they would only issue 1-month tourist Visas and had sent everyone who was still hanging out without a Visa home. Most of the expats left Vietnam for other, more Visa-friendly locations. The dance scene in Da Nang has always been Western leaders and Vietnamese ladies. With the majority of the leaders leaving Vietnam, we had the rug being pulled out from under us. There were not enough leaders around anymore, and eventually the ladies got tired of dancing with the same 3 guys and ended up just staying home. Then even these 3 guys disappeared, even though only temporarily (me being one of them!).

And here I was, with my plans to setup a Salsa-centric social… Anyway, I decided to not let the current affair of things deter my plans and started my socials at My Casa. Needless to say, it was a total failure…no one would show up! We usually had a fair number of leaders, but no ladies…like in NONE! After 3 really long and boring socials listening to great music all by myself I called it quits.

But on one of these socials something interesting happened! A lady had seen some of my advertising and had contacted me. Initially, she wanted me to stir up the crowd at one of the pool parties at her hotel. She came to one of the (empty) socials at My Casa and was, like us, disappointed. But she wanted to work with us….she had lot’s of energy and was passionate about dancing…I was intrigued.

She invited me and Mick to the Sala hotel to discuss the pool party and possibly a social there. When Mick and I saw the top floor of Sala, a luxury hotel with 26 floors at the beach front of Da Nang, we were enthusiastic! Great floors, brisk AC, a top-notch sound system and million dollar views…this was IDEAL for dancing…not only dancing, but partying…celebrating…having a great time! We jumped on the idea of the pool party and starting a social there right away (well, I had some reservations about the “right away” part, but I was overruled).

There’s no doubt that the appearance of Sala as a new dance location was instrumental for the revival of the dance scene in Da Nang. But other decisions needed to be made to make that happen:

We needed to cut back the number of socials per week! We had gotten into the habit of letting anyone start a new social who wanted to, which resulted in 4 or 5 socials for a small and shrinking dance scene. The first victim: My own social at My Casa….next on the chopping block: Section 30 on Mondays…and finally: EscoBeach on Wednesday. Cancelling Esco was not an easy decision, because this social had existed at another location forever and Esco is a nice place. After some debate we decided to just keep Sala and Gecko’s, now on Mondays. You can always see the up-to-date schedule for social dancing in Da Nang here.

We also started some other activities, like for instance Dance of the Beach, where we rented a speaker and headed for the beach on a late Sunday afternoon. The turnout was better than expected, we met some old friends and made some new ones.

The socials at our new location Sala started to attract more people, and more people attract more people…you get the idea.

About 2 months after returning from KL the Latin/Afro dance scene is BACK! We frequently get visitors from other cities and countries and everyone who comes has a good time and goes home happy. We had two Kizomba instructors from abroad coming in for workshops, improving the dance skills of our dancers.

So what does Phoenix rising from the Ashes have to do with the dance community in Da Nang? It’s a myth where a powerful, beautiful bird rises from the ashes of failure and destruction…we’re the same! From a sad dance scene just two months ago we rose to be big and beautiful again! Keep dancing!

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