During my last three years here, I’ve unintentionally been desensitized to the homogenous culture and earthy tones that pervade the CC bubble, an imaginary line that separates the safe and reliable grounds of the college from the rest of the world.
In the bubble, everyone is bound to a set of norms that would otherwise seem preposterous for the real world: you can leave your door unlocked for a day and nothing will (usually) happen; everything from class discussions to door decorations is rated PC; and meals are offered for every dietary restriction.
However, when you step outside the square of Wahsatch to Cascade and Unitah to Cache la Poudre, you hit what is known as the real world.
This weekend, a group of classmates and I traveled to Colorado Springs’ salsa nightclub, Latin Quarters, to study the art of salsa and those who participate. Not only were we outsiders to the venue and culture, but we were unknowingly outsiders to the real world.
After many texts and miscommunications, we gathered in front of Loomis and prepared for our venture into the realm of salsa.
After making our soccer mom Uber driver loop sketchy parking lots for no less than 15 minutes, the fluorescent ‘Latin Quarters’ sign marked our arrival. The four of us, bound by the ties of a dance ethnography project, stepped out to the yet-to-be-opened salsa nightclub and only one thing came to mind: we were no longer at CC.
It was approximately 8:40 p.m., and the club remained closed, a squad of four (who stood more confidently than we did) that was posted outside of LQ did not seem to mind.
I was confused by their presence because they appeared extremely confident, however they acted almost indifferent towards the club.
Turns out that they were the bartenders, DJ, and bouncer—we had beat the crew of staff to the actual nightclub, if that alone can sum up the first half of this night.
After we arrived, another man came to join them and opened the gates to the exotic salsa haven, and the four followed.
We, too, started to trail behind them as they strutted into the club, but they told us that they would come and get us when the club was ready because they had to set up. That crowd, that marching crowd, walked with confidence and swagger, as if whatever they were going to do in there was a hub of pride for them.
On the other hand, us four stood outside and chatted awkwardly while gated out of this seemingly cool place to be while the crew worked diligently inside. At around 9:00 p.m., the neon pink and green “OPEN” sign lit up and we were walked into the venue.
The club has somewhat strict rules: you have to leave your ID at the door when you come in; it is free for all until 10:30 p.m. (and rightfully so); all bags are inspected; and all males get a head-to-toe pat down.
Even though we all looked like a group of awkward students going out for the first time, we were treated, in terms of security, as if we were way more of a threat than we could ever be.
Although I found this odd, seeing people walk in later showed me that it was more protocol than preference for the bouncer.
We all later gathered again in a booth in the back of the venue.
Although it was posted that dance lessons on Friday were from 8:30-10:00 p.m., the club was dead.
Lively, whirring lasers and loud music clogged the air. We checked the time and it was almost 9:15 p.m. until we all decided that we needed to ask for some guidance.
Our booth sent Oscar, our friendly Costa Rican representative, over to the bar to ask somebody when the dance began.
They did not speak Spanish, which was disappointing because we hoped to get an ‘in’ to the club using our language.
Even though we were always told bad news about the night with a smile (class starts late, no one really comes on Fridays, etc.), it felt like these people were running in their own world, one where time did not exist and music videos playing on all of the club’s TVs did not match the songs that were playing (the equivalent of a Nelly video playing with Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”).
Regardless, lessons were starting at 9:30 p.m., and we could not wait any longer.
According to our friends over at the bar, the lady in stripes who had just waltzed in was our instructor.
Once it was officially class time, our squad of four tensely lingered over to her area.
Her voice seemed to liven a thousand trumpets and horns and everything she said sounded exciting and fun.
We started off the class by having a 15-minute lesson regarding the background of salsa, and we were quickly joined by waves of strangers who joined us.
This didn’t look so much like an organized salsa class but more like a CTA bus stop in the middle of Chicago or an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.
Despite the knicks on my feet from being stepped on and the sticky Uber rides I endured that night, coming out of the CC bubble was beyond refreshing.
What I got from this experience was that it’s okay to go somewhere with currency I can’t swipe with my Gold Card, that there’s a lot of learning to be done about life, and that the troubles or high points life brings that cannot be taught in three and a half weeks in Armstrong.
Even though stepping out of the bounds can be hard, getting your foot in the door for the real world can be rewarding, fulfilling, and maybe even a little spicy.