Maestra Vida: Salsa, Santiago-Style

I step into the hall ten minutes late, and the party is already in full swing. The conga percussion swivels dancers’ hips, lithe women are deep in the throes of intricate turns and there is a frenzy of three-beat steps as far as the eye can see.

Santiago Chile Maestra Vida
Photo by Jason C. Hickerson

Suddenly, through the midst a man walks up--short, bald and on the prowl--to seize my hand and drag me across the hall.

Santiago Chile Maestra Vida
Photo by Jason C. Hickerson

The music stops. Measuring up to my breast, he mumbles a series of questions into them. And when I don't respond fluently, he extracts his head, glares at me and accusingly states, “Oh, you are not Chilean.”

And so begins the most unfortunate hour and a half.

Maestra Vida is the oldest dance club in Santiago and comes along with a good reputation. You just have to arrive at the “partner-up” moment at an opportune time.

The club offers salsa classes every Thursday and Friday for CP$2,500 (US$3.75), which allows you free entrance into the club after lessons. On Sundays it is CP$2,000 but there is no after-hours dancing. While the club says the classes have a mix of beginning and intermediate dancers, most seem to know their left foot from their right.

Girls, be wary of smiling too much at your dance partner; with the sexy rhythms and fumbling around, he may construe it as pre-club foreplay. Aside from that, there is no need to be too intimidated, as fun is also the aim of the night.

Chilean-style salsa differs from other types in steps and with a subtle change in beat. In between the standard one-two-three moves, there is the direction to “marca,” which involves marching on the same spot repeatedly.

Salsa is not the only feature of Maestra Vida--there is live music each Wednesday and Thursday night ranging from Latin Jazz, Funk, Soul, Boleros, Cumbia and Afro.

Thursday, Friday
Basic and Medium Cycle
21:00 to 22:30

Basic and Medium Cycle
21:00 to 22:00

Maestra Vida
Barrio Bellavista
Pio Nono 380
Open Wednesday to Sunday; Saturdays until 5 am

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