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Nightlife: Ryles Jazz Club

Weekly salsa, kizomba, bachata dance classes for all levels


In the mood to step up your salsa steps? Feeling bold enough to test out the slow and sensual moves of kizomba? Whether you’re an experienced dancer or have two left feet, you’ll have an entertaining night at Ryles Jazz Club’s Latin Caribbean Night, held each Thursday.

The jazz venue, routinely featuring nationally known artists like Chick Corea, Arturo Sandoval, and McCoy Tyner, also houses a dance hall on the top floor. Ryles partners with Cambridge’s Noche Latina Dance School to offer salsa, bachata (a social dance from the Dominican Republic), and kizomba (a romantic dance from Angola, similar to samba) lessons Tuesday and Thursday evenings.

We stopped by on a dreary Thursday night, arriving about 10 minutes before the scheduled 7:30 p.m. start of dance class. We bought our tickets ($13, cash or credit card) and headed upstairs to the dance hall, only to find it empty. People slowly trickled in, and the class finally started at 8 p.m. (the instructor was running late). A substitute instructor got the class under way and the 10 of us got into two lines behind him.

He counted out the steps “1-2-3, 5-6-7” as he walked us through the four basic salsa steps. Slowly, and after much practice, we started to feel comfortable with the steps and turns, so he started the music and continued to count aloud as we tried to remember the choreography.

When the regular instructor arrived shortly thereafter, he immediately kicked up the tempo. Music blared as he shouted out counts and steps, “5-6-7, right turn.” He quickly introduced much more difficult steps—crossovers, kicks, spins and twirls—and from there we partnered up to test our new moves.

The Noche Latina Dance School offers beginner and advanced salsa, kizomba, and bachata dance lessons every Tuesday and Thursday night for $13 at Ryles Jazz Club in Cambridge.

The Noche Latina Dance School offers beginner and advanced salsa, kizomba, and bachata dance lessons every Tuesday and Thursday nights for $13 at Ryles Jazz Club.

By the end of the 90-minute class, we had the four basic steps down, but fumbled at anything more complex. Like us, some of the dancers were new, but others attend classes often. By the time we were ready to leave, the room had filled with people coming for the Thursday Latin Caribbean Dance Party, held from 9:30 p.m. to 1 a.m., featuring a live DJ with a mix of Latin and Caribbean music. We watched the dancers take to the floor—it looked like a scene from Dirty Dancing. Feeling out of our element, we left.

If you come for the dance lesson, be sure to stop by Ryles’ main room. The night we were there, the packed first floor crowd had come to hear local jazz vocalist and Harvard student Claire Dickson. Although just 19, Dickson already has numerous honors to her credit, including eight DownBeat Student Music Awards from DownBeat magazine, and she has performed at venues like Boston’s Symphony Hall and Washington’s Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

In addition to live music six nights a week, Ryles, owned and operated by the same family as the nearby Cambridge landmark S&S Restaurant, offers a late night dinner menu and a popular Sunday jazz brunch. It also has a full bar in the dance hall and the main room.

We had a great time trying something new and learning the basics of salsa. The dance instructors were patient, friendly, and made us feel comfortable trying the new steps. We’re definitely looking forward to going back to work on our salsa steps.

Ryles Jazz Club is at 212 Hampshire St., Cambridge; phone 617-876-9330. The club’s weekly Latin Caribbean Night is tonight, March 31, and every Thursday. Tickets can be purchased at the door.

This is part of a weekly series featuring Boston nightlife spots of interest to the BU community. If you have any suggestions for places we should feature, leave them in the Comment section below.

Jennifer Bates can be reached at jennb7@bu.edu.

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