Eddie Wood, of Homer, demonstrates dance steps with Stephanie Almaraz in a Spanish class on May 5, 2008 at Soldotna High School. Wood, who travels the peninsula playing percussion and teaching salsa, is hosting his first open class for adults in Soldotna with local artist Kaitlin Vadla on Thursday. (Scott Moon/Peninsula Clarion-File)

Eddie Wood, of Homer, demonstrates dance steps with Stephanie Almaraz in a Spanish class on May 5, 2008 at Soldotna High School. Wood, who travels the peninsula playing percussion and teaching salsa, is hosting his first open class for adults in Soldotna with local artist Kaitlin Vadla on Thursday. (Scott Moon/Peninsula Clarion-File)

Put your best foot forward with salsa dance class

Those looking to add a little spice to their lives this week need look no further than Odie’s Deli in Soldotna, though not for food.

Local artist Kaitlin Vadla and Eddie Wood, a musician and traveling instructor, will host a salsa dancing class from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the restaurant. Vadla grew up in Soldotna and has taught salsa in the past, along with flash mob dancing.

Wood, originally from Spain, has also lived on the East Coast and what was then the Panama Canal Zone before moving to Alaska and settling in Homer in 1976. He is a percussionist, and has traveled around Alaska, to the Pacific Northwest and to Washington, D.C. to present at education conferences. Wood has played with several ensembles and around the Kenai Peninsula.

The two have been trying to get a class going on the central peninsula for several months, Wood said. They met through a mutual friend and are both part of the salsa dancing community, which Vadla said is small in Alaska.

“I’ve taught salsa classes and flash mob classes in Spokane (Washington) and always wanted to have a salsa dance class in Soldotna,” she said.

The class costs $15, and participants don’t need prior experience. They can come in pairs or alone, as every member of the class will take turns dancing with each other, Wood said.

In addition to the basic steps, the class will include some background into the evolution of the music that goes along with salsa dancing.

“Cuban Son, as it’s called, is the basis of the music that we now call modern day salsa,” Vadla said.

Wood said there is some amount of rural and urban legend surrounding the terminology used to describe salsa. It has become a sort of catch-all term, he said, with several different kinds of musical styles thrown into one category to make them easier to digest. Wood said there can be many styles of Latin music that differ from Cuba to Brazil, between regions and in different city scenes, but they aren’t all necessarily salsa music.

Wood grew up in the northwest region of Spain in a province called Asturias. It was a Celtic region, so he would be playing percussion with traditional Celtic bands, he said. Socialization with family and friends was important there, and there were consequences for not engaging, he said.

This class will be a lesson in socializing and being comfortable with other people through dance, he said, an aspect Vadla has been interested in teaching.

“She’s very engaged in spreading this kind of social dancing,” he said.

Vadla and Wood plan to see how this dance class goes, with the hope of holding more on the central peninsula in the future. Wood said he would like to begin holding more intermediate classes and eventually maybe add live music to the lessons, which helps both the dancers and the musicians be in better sync.

“There is nothing better in this world, except maybe fresh halibut, than dancing to live music,” he said.

Vadla said the pair will see where the interest level is after this first class. While this will be the first class they have taught in Soldotna, it will be contributing to an existing dance community on the central peninsula. Vadla said groups like Peninsula Artists in Motion and the Kenai Performers help create opportunities for those interested in dance and culture.

“I think when you’re hungry for it and looking, there actually is a lot here and that’s something to celebrate,” she said.

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@peninsulaclarion.com.

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