Latino Dance Night

Tonight is salsa night at The Temporary, a “really immersive, interactive” way to celebrate Latino culture, says the venue’s executive director, Ryan Honey.

There’s an event tonight at The Temporary in Basalt that, at first glance, doesn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary.

There will be a band from Denver, and there will be dancing, as well as bar specials on Corona and shots of tequila. In that sense, it could be any Saturday evening at the popular midvalley nightspot.

But one look at the poster touting the event shows tonight is going to be a little different than most Saturdays. The tropical graphics, including palm fronds, coconuts, parrots, maracas and conga drums, are unapologetically garish, and the words, hinting at the event’s intended audience, are all in Spanish. That can only mean one thing: It’s salsa night.

The fact that salsa night doesn’t seem like a big deal is a measure of the progress The Temporary has made in wooing a broader swath of the community. This is the seventh such event at the club since it opened 16 months ago, and in that time, you could probably count on one hand the combined number of Latino-specific events at the valley’s other major performance venues.

For The Arts Campus at Willits (TACAW), the nonprofit that operates The Temporary, what would seem anomalous for its colleagues has been a focus of programming efforts from the get-go.

“At the outset of our planning, years and years ago, it was part of our plan to do these Latin dance party nights,” said TACAW Artistic Director Marc Breslin. “This was definitely in the big picture.”

“I remember when I was still in conversations to be hired, one of the models that kept coming up for integrated programming was Latino weekends,” added TACAW Executive Director Ryan Honey. “So you’d have bands in the evenings, but you’d have food trucks during the day. You could have theater in the afternoons for families, all kinds of really immersive, interactive ways to celebrate Latino culture. This predates me.”

While a fiesta on that scale has not happened yet (look for a salsa block party next summer, though), The Temporary’s Latino programming has grown well beyond its initial “salsa-and-taco” nights. The space has hosted a couple of Immigrant Voices spoken-word events; on Jan. 11 Chicano funk band Los Mocochetes will perform; on March 2, The Temporary will present Viva Kid Flicks, a Spanish-language program of some of the best shorts from the New York International Children’s Film Festival; and later in March there will be a mariachi band performing along with the dancers of Folklórico. And, yes, there will be tacos available tonight.

The dance offerings, too, have grown beyond just salsa to include bachata, cumbia and merengue, as well. That may sound a little intimidating to newcomers, but The Temporary has everyone covered by offering dance lessons from 8:30 to 9:15 p.m. with the ticket price ($10 for ladies, $15 for gentlemen and $20 for pairs). The dancing and music will really kick in around 9:30 p.m. and likely won’t wrap up until around 1 a.m., which Breslin conceded is quite late by midvalley standards.

Well attended and growing in popularity, salsa nights at The Temporary are clearly aimed at the local Latino community, but one nice side effect that the organizers have noticed is that the crowds have been “a nice mix of Anglos and Latinos,” said Breslin.

“The two communities coming together has been really fun to watch,” said Honey. “When you see the dance lessons and you see a mix of cowboys and hipsters, Colombians, Salvadorans, Mexicans — it’s been quite moving to see it.”

It’s the sort of multicultural mingling most folks would like to see more of — but one that is, nevertheless, hard to find elsewhere in the valley. For The Temporary, though, it’s been part of the plan all along, and it hasn’t gone unappreciated.

“You can’t imagine how happy people are during these events,” said Honey. “They come over and they’re just so stoked to hear their music on a stage in their neighborhood. The level of gratitude has been beyond anything I could have expected.”

Todd Hartley is the special sections editor for Aspen Daily News. He can be reached at todd@aspendailynews.com.

Special Sections Editor