Some salsa dance to relieve stress, others to get in a sweat session, still more are in it for the socializing. Whatever the reason one may salsa dance, in Corvallis, it likely means you are already familiar with Rumabanana Cuban Salsa Group. Founded by Mike Eskeldson and Simona Boucek in town in 2006, core members and newbies alike can be found every Tuesday evening at Impulse Bar and Grill starting around 8p.m. I stopped by the other day to check it out and catch up with friends, and later on had the chance to meet with veteran dancer Cyrel Gable and get a taste of an insider’s perspective.
Gable started dancing with Rumbanana in October 2010. First introduced through her then high school-aged son, she wanted to take up dance that didn’t require a partner, as she had just gone through a divorce.
“I knew that salsa would work well that way because lots of people come without partners, and you’re changing partners all the time, that’s the whole style,” she explained. Rumbanana dances Casino and Timba, in which participants dance in a wheel rather than a line, completing choreographed moves that a caller announces both verbally and with hand signals throughout the dance.
After her first month of lessons, Gable was hooked, stating “I have pretty much taken lessons every single month since then, and started dancing with the team last fall.”
The Rumbanana Performance Team is perhaps the group’s greatest pride and glory. They compete regionally—and sometimes internationally—and have brought back trophies to Corvallis on numerous occasions. Joining the team for Gable was a pretty significant step up. Instead of attending classes for 1-2 hours a week, she now spends between 6 and 8 hours each week salsa dancing. In addition, she no longer can fall back on her partners to help her through the moves that make up the basis of the classes, but has to memorize multiple moves strung together into “supermoves” on her own. Because of this, she finds that salsa is “as challenging mentally as it is physically. As I age, I consider it a good challenge for my brain, because of both the coordination and memorization.”
In addition to joining the performance team, Gable’s interest in salsa has grown by contextualizing the dance in terms of culture. Eskeldon semi-regularly teaches workshops that touch on the cultural roots of the dance, and recently brought a guest up from LA to “talk about the Afro-Cuban, spiritual background of a lot of the dances,” Gable described, “[she] talked about how certain moves are affiliated with different spiritual figures, that was pretty fascinating.”
When asked if other should consider joining, Gable was enthusiastic: “It’s a great way to exercise, because there are so many other rewards to it, it’s not something you go do because you have to or you should…this is a way to be active that’s a lot of fun.”
Curious, but not yet ready for lessons? You can watch Rumbanana at the Saturday Farmer’s Market as they Rueda en la Calle for the rest of the summer.
You can find Rumbanana online via https://www.rumbanana.org/.
By Ari Blatt