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The International Writers Magazine:New York Living

Latin Dancing Across 110th Street
• Dean Borok
I have asserted all along that New Yorkers are so repugnant that they should be compelled to attend charm school, so I decided to take my own advice. The place I chose, the Lorenz Latin Dance Studio, is located in the heart of Spanish Harlem, the fabled Newyorican capital of salsa, mambo and rumba music that exploded Afro-Cuban rhythms around the world. Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri, Mongo Santamaria and the whole Pantheon of World Latin Culture were either born there or were attracted to it like sharp pins to a magnet. Ambitious Latin stars gravitate to Spanish Harlem from as near as the Bronx (J-Lo) or as far away as Venezuela (Oscar d’Leon).


When a band in the DR gets a couple of hits under their belt, they dream of coming to New York, not Mexico City or Buenos Aires. A Latin Music Hall of Fame museum should be constructed right in the heart of the place, and it would really attract a lot of visitors, given the fact that the US demographic is increasingly tilted in that direction anyway.

If so, I have the perfect location: Second Avenue and 110th Street, which is exactly the pin-point map center of Spanish Harlem. That space is presently inhabited by the Lorenz Latin Dance Studio. This school is a real professional operation with three thriving locations in Queens, and it just opened its Harlem studio this week. I was first in line, you better believe it!

Latin dance I only live five minutes away, on the Upper East Side. The trip is so fast that it’s almost instantaneous, like walking through the glimmering portal on that science fiction TV show, “Stargate”, where the guy walks through it and finds himself on another planet. Most Upper East Side residents are totally oblivious to Spanish Harlem. It is the jungle, with its mofongo restaurants and Santeria Botanica boutiques selling porcelain figurines of the Black Virgin. For me, no hay problema! My girlfriend, Magpie, and I have been hanging out for years on 116th Street, Little Mexico, for the margaritas and Mexican cuisine.

I speak Spanish from 30 years of working in New York, mostly in industrial production where the labor force is 100% Spanish-speaking, and from 25 years of vacationing in Mexico and the Dominican Republic, where you can’t beat it for the money.

I mean, my Spanish is so good that I have an entire comedy routine of nasty humor in that language. My first girlfriend in New York was Clara, who was Bolivian but she dressed like an Italian, ooh-la-la! Clara was a spicy tomato, and I learned a lot of horizontal Spanish from her, I can attest! If you want to learn Spanish, New York is an easy place to do it, with all the Spanish-language TV, radio, periodicals etc. The hard part is to find a situation where you can regularly practice speaking it. A lot of people have to pay a lot of money for formal lessons, but the results are often deplorable, like Mayor Bloomberg, whose Spanish is so awful that it’s painful, and he insists on using it, to show how clever he is ha-ha!

I always wanted to learn Latin dancing so I could be a Latin lover like the legendary playboy Porfirio Rubirosa, a Dominican polo player who took the rich widows of Park Avenue by storm during the 1950’s, and whose masculine endowment was so rich that restaurant pepper grinders were referred to as “the rubirosa” in his honor.

The problem was that the only place to learn Latin dancing was at the expensive dancing schools over by Lincoln Center, where serious dancers train. Fortunately, the gyms where I worked out gave Latin-themed aerobic classes where you could learn a few moves, but it was for sweating and not learning how to dance with a partner. At Lorenz, they have a carefully prepared curriculum, like Harvard, and a successful formula for teaching people to shake their booty. The whole staff of instructors are themselves former students. Maybe I can learn enough to get the chance to expose myself to some of those rich broads downtown.

In the meantime, I am perfectly happy at Lorenz. The class I attended is a cross-section of New York that you would find on a subway train, a lot of hard cases. But nice.

Still Dancin'
Dean Borok

Anybody who wants to get a thumbnail of the changing demographic of American society would do well to take a ride uptown to the Lorenz Latin Dance Studio on 110th Street

© Dean Borok Feb 2013

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