European Spotlight: Danny Asberry, Bahrain’s guide to the art of salsa
How long have you been dancing? How did you get started?
I have been dancing since I was 5 years old. My friends told me that I should teach classes, so I did. I started at a restaurant called Sabor Latino in Norfolk, Va. Now I’m doing the same in Manama, Bahrain.
How long have you been teaching dancing? Where have you taught?
Five years, in Houston, Virginia, Bahrain and San Diego.
How did you get started teaching in Bahrain?
I met my salsa partner Anna Mihalova at a night club. She asked me if I wanted to teach classes with her. I said yes. The ball started to roll from there.
When I think dancing, I think of a nightclub in Paris, bars on a Mediterranean beach or any Latin American country, but definitely not Bahrain. Does the country have a thriving dance community?
Yes, salsa and other forms of Afro-Caribbean, African and Afro-American variations of dance are highly appreciated here. The people here find a kinship between these gradients of music and their own because this country neighbors the African continent and its Latin correspondents.
Do others in your family dance?
All of us. My mother especially.
So Mom digs dancing. Do other chicks dig a good dancer, too?
Of course. When guys dance very well, they make their partners look good. If you can accomplish this, you’ll eventually have to fight them off you with a stick.
What dances do you know, what dances do you teach?
Salsa, Orisha, Jazz dance, Bemmi, hip-hop, merengue, bachata, cha-cha, zydeco and swing. The dance I teach is salsa.
What the heck are bachata, Orisha and Bemmi?
Bachata is a dance from the Dominican Republic, Orisha is the root of salsa from West Africa introduced into Cuba, and Bemmi is an ancient traditional dance from Ethiopia.
OK, you know all these different dances. Say you’re out on the dance floor doing the merengue with a partner. Do you ever find yourself accidentally starting to do cha-cha or zydeco? How do you keep them all straight in your head?
No, to your first question. Because the African rhythms are so similar, I sometimes combine zydeco steps into merengue. For your second question, I just know.
What is it about dancing that keeps you hitting the floor?
Dancing is in my soul. It’s one of my forms of relief. It’s also one of my favorite ways of expression.
Do you ever think you’ll stop dancing?
Interview by Jason Chudy.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Danny Asberry Jr.
Title: Salsa instructor
Day job: Graphic artist and media specialist for U.S. Naval Forces Central Command in Bahrain
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