As if summer weren't hot enough already, now there's salsa on the menu. No, not the tangy taco sauce, but the saucy Latin dance craze that's heating up clubs across Long Island. Providing the salsa beat Friday night at the Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport are Alex Torres and His Latin Orchestra. They're returning for the seventh year in a row to coax an expected overflow crowd onto the outdoor dance floor.
The annual event has become such a hot ticket -- more than 300 people attended last year, and as many are expected this go-round -- that an auxiliary dance floor is being set up next to the Vanderbilt's 50-by-80-foot tent. It's one of several outdoor dance events the historic estate is hosting this summer.
With soft summer breezes wafting in from picturesque Northport Harbor, "this type of dancing on a summer night is just a perfect combination," says Lance Reinheimer, the museum's executive director.
"Salsa appeals to a wide range of age groups -- we have senior citizens and 20-year-olds coming," says event coordinator Barbara Oster. The music fits in with the Spanish-style architecture of the estate's Eagle's Nest mansion, she says.
ABOUT THE SOUNDS
"It's real dancing music," says Torres, the Bronx-born and -raised bandleader of Puerto Rican heritage. The 12-piece band, led by Torres, 48, who lives in Albany, includes traditional Latin instruments such as the conga, as well as brass and keyboard. The band plays a few salsa classics -- "we'll play something very old and Cuban," Torres says -- but its repertoire consists mainly of Torres' original compositions. Film fans already might have heard Torres' song "In Rhythm," co-written with Jimmy Fontanez and performed by the Torres orchestra on the soundtrack of the 2009 John Travolta comedy film, "Old Dogs." In addition to salsa, they play merengue, the Caribbean dance music that originated in the Dominican Republic.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Torres' Long Island fans say his original music is part of what makes the evening special.
"Alex Torres has the best music," says Walter Gilbert, 61, of Huntington Station. Gilbert is a ballroom devotee who takes regular lessons and knows 15 dances, including the waltz, fox-trot, swing, samba and the Hustle. He's reserved tickets for himself and six men and three women friends for Friday's show. He expects to have a busy dance card. "There are a lot more women than men. I never have trouble getting a partner," Gilbert says.
If you've never danced salsa or want to improve your moves, you can learn the steps in an hourlong pre-party group lesson with Rico & Carman, a Long Island dance team that offers local adult-ed classes.
Reinheimer suggests dancers wear loose clothing, such as a Hawaiian-type shirt for men, and a typical dress for women. But high heels -- probably not. "We do have cobblestones," he says.
To help the dancers stay cool, the museum will be selling 750 ml bottles of sauvignon blanc and cabernet sauvignon for $20, as well as smaller bottles for $5, domestic beer, wine coolers and soft drinks. No food will be served, but Reinheimer suggests stocking up at a local eatery such as the Copenhagen Bakery in nearby Northport. Bakery owner Stace Hansen says they can prepare sandwiches for two for $20 -- Scandinavian pastries, cheese and fruit are extra.
WHEN | WHERE 7-10 p.m. Friday at the Vanderbilt Museum and Planetarium, Centerport. Salsa dance lesson starts at 6.
INFO 631-854-5579, vanderbiltmuseum.org
ADMISSION $30 ($25 advance) plus $5 for dance lesson