Natasha Khazzam, Contributing Photographer

On Wednesday night, volunteer dance organization Salsa in Ninth Square hosted one of its free “salsa nights” at Havenly Treats.

One of several salsa nights that the group hosts at varying locations, the event kicked off with a beginner’s salsa lesson. As the evening progressed, the gathering transitioned into an informal social as participants mingled and danced.

“What I love about salsa is that you meet so many different people and have these interactions that you don’t normally experience outside of dancing,” organizer and volunteer Joel Jacome said. “You get to work with someone and just have fun.”

Salsa instructor Quincy Davis introduced the group to a variety of basic dance moves such as the “Suzie Q,” the “back cross” and the “step slide.” The class was accompanied by traditional salsa music, including the works of various Latinx artists such as Ray Barretto, Luis Enrique and Marc Anthony.

Though now a staple of the New Haven nightlife scene, Salsa in Ninth Square began as an effort to promote small businesses within the city following the drastic drop in commerce due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Josephine Ankrah, another event coordinator, noted that prior to the pandemic, the Yale Students’ Salsa Society hosted regular salsa nights on Broadway. Although the salsa nights returned in early 2021, the YSSS was not able to host events with participants from outside of the Yale community due to university Covid-19 restrictions.

“That pushed me to start an outdoor salsa event for the community at large so that there were no restrictions in terms of who could attend,” Ankrah said.

Wednesday’s event was the first salsa night to be held indoors thus far.

The Music for all Salsa in Ninth Square events are coordinated by DJ Christie, an open-format DJ based in New Haven. Having performed in New York City as well as in various locations throughout Europe, Christie emphasized her unique affinity for New Haven salsa nights.

“I love doing community events where you get to learn something,” Christie said. Being Puerto Rican, Christie also holds a strong personal connection to salsa. “Latin is probably my favorite genre [of music]. I grew up with my grandparents speaking Spanish to me, listening to salsa music my whole life.”

Ranging from musicians to college students, Wednesday’s salsa night attracted a diverse group of attendees. Alvin Delgado ’23 said that “it’s good to get out of the college bubble every once in a while.” Ana García, a professional singer from Manhattan and current resident of New Haven, said that “everyone feels so comfortable – whether they’re older or younger.” She added that she is “just happy to be here.”

Though Salsa in Ninth Square began as an entirely volunteer-led organization, it began to receive funding from The Town Green in the summer of 2022. Increased funding enabled the group to hire more dance instructors and musicians, increasing both the quality and quantity of its events.

“I’ve watched [salsa] diminish over the years, and now it’s very rare to find those types of places where people can dance salsa,” said dance instructor Quincy Davis. “I’m just happy to see people out here again and mingling with each other. That’s the point of life, isn’t it?”

Salsa in Ninth Square will be hosting its next dance social on Thursday, Sept. 22.

Natasha Khazzam covers housing and homelessness for city desk. She previously covered climate and the environment. Originally from Great Neck, New York, she is a sophomore in Davenport College majoring in history and English.