Salsa Dancing at Son Havana

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Son Havana
Son Havana
The entrance to Son Havana
The entrance to Son Havana

Son Havana has been serving salsa aficionados’ needs since 2010, but it wasn’t until the last few weeks that I finally made it a point to check out one of Medellin’s most popular salsa venues.

Located a few blocks off La 70, Son Havana is a bit larger than El Tibiri and El Eslabon Prendido, but not by much. Like the other two, air circulation is dependent on a scattering of metal fans throughout the space.

Before Son Havana occupied the building, it was dedicated to another salsa venue known for bringing in live performers.

My date and I arrived ridiculously early, a little after 9 PM, on a Saturday night. Actually, we were the first patrons in the bar that night.

The cover charge was 8,000 pesos ($4.50) per person, and beers were about 5,000 pesos ($2.80) apiece. If you buy a bottle of Aguardiente, you’ll also get free cups of ice water (and refills all night).

I find it easier to go early than try to make reservations. This way, at least we’d get our pick of the non-reserved tables.

And we picked a good one in a nook, with our backs to a wall, and a good view of the band.

Inside Son Havana
Inside Son Havana

The following weekend, I’d return to Son Havana for Jessica’s birthday, and we’d arrive around midnight.

It was the opposite experience, with us walking into a packed bar, and being offered the last remaining table, around a corner, in the far back.

If it weren’t for that little bit of space, I don’t know where we would’ve gone.

The live salsa band at Son Havana
The live salsa band at Son Havana

Getting back to my first visit, we hung out and watched the bar slowly fill with new arrivals.

The stereo played salsa until 11:45 PM, when the band finally began to play. I’d expected them to start sooner, but we’d already started dancing to the occasional song, so it wasn’t that big a deal.

And like the other salsa venues in Medellin, you’re relegated to dancing between the tables and chairs, only there are more of them in Son Havana than the others.

In front of the band, there’s a small square dance area that gets so filled with couples dancing, there’s no point in fighting for space. It’s easier to pick a spot near your table and make it work.

The small dance floor is located directly in front of the band
The small dance floor is located directly in front of the band

The band wrapped up around 1 AM, a little over an hour after they began. I was surprised they didn’t stick around for a second set.

Four hours into the night, on account of arriving early, we left Son Havana which was still in full swing.

While it’s true there’s not a lot of space for dancing, I do find it to be the most comfortable of the three salsa bars I visit the most. Plus, it’s a regular practice spot for students of my salsa teacher.

(Unfortunately, Cien Fuegos, the only true salsa venue with a big dance floor, appears to have closed.)

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14 COMMENTS

  1. I suppose I would comment why aren’t there bigger venues?

    This dancing between tables is all very well but from a male perspective it is practically impossible to execute moves like those in the video.

    I have also found the ladies dancing in salsa clubs somewhat rigid and unwilling to be led in their style which I guess is suited to the confined spaces but doesn’t offer great dancing patterns.

    They have a lot of other redeeming characteristics including natural rhythm. The one venue where this was not the case was in a community setting where there was greater variety in the dancing including Porro, Cumbia, Pasa Doble, Bachata – You can see this on the Friday offering here http://www.malarkeyenperu.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/salsa-in-medellin.html

    I did go to one other event somewhat similar this time set in a dance school, not Yamile’s. Maybe we could encourage Yamile to run something that offered a bit of group tuition followed by some social dancing. This is mostly the UK model and enables people to practise their moves with a range of partners. Anywaay whatever is on offer I’ll be back for more in 2 weeks 🙂

    • I remember asking a Colombian about the reason behind so many tables in the clubs, and the response was money. You know they like to go out in groups here, and the start of every night is hanging out with friends around the table, drinking guaro and talking. The more tables, the more bottles of Aguardiente and rum they can sell.

      I disagree about it being impossible to dance very well in the tight spaces. I find the strongest (most confident) men make space for themselves and their partner to dance. Weaker dancers, which I still consider myself, then find themselves pushed around into less than ideal spaces, or just give up entirely (out of frustration).

      My first night at Son Havana, there was a Colombian couple at the table next to us, and they were doing very sophisticated patterns within just a few square feet. And the guy looked to be in total control. I was seriously inspired by watching them.

  2. Hi ,
    I leave for a 2 week trip to Medellin and Cartagena in 6 days.I must say me and my 2 girlrfriends (we r all 28)( Puertorrican , British and Italian) found this blog VERY helpful.Very happy i read this! Thank u

  3. Hi Dave, do you still go salsa dancing? Just arrived in Medellin and want to check out some of the clubs and also look for a salsa school. Thanks