Cuban fury and Salsa fever is hotting up in cities and towns across Ireland as more and more people take to the dance floor. The choice to dance with a partner in an authentic club environment with a live band has become such a hit that one Dublin club opens its doors six nights a week.
"It's a growing community of all ages from all walks of life," said Marinko Leka, of Salsa Dublin. "We have grown from three students to over 1,000 in only three years."
Recently returned from the red carpet premiere of Cuban Fury in London's Leicester Square are world-class performers David Salazar and Johely Guilarte, both living in Dublin.
"We practise two or three hours a day and spend about two hours in the gym six days a week," explained 26-year-old David, who started dancing at the age of 16 in his home town of Caracas, Venezuela, so that his sister would have a partner.
"She used to pay for me to go to classes with her, but after she quit I realised I loved dancing and wanted to learn and study more."
Johely (22), also from Caracas, has been dancing since she was 11. Their opportunity to appear on the red carpet involved five hours of training to perform a six-minute routine, an indication of how much preparation and precision goes into live performances.
The dance, which has its roots in South America and African cultures, transformed as it spread into North America while maintaining its spicy mix of tricks, lifts and body language. Styles of Salsa include Cuban, Puerto Rican, LA, New York and Miami.
Dancing is a journey that takes time and practice to progress and, unlike other forms of fitness, it is a slow burner. Two or three hours of Salsa might not break a sweat for many social dancers and only consume as many calories as an hour of hardcore fitness. Nonetheless, a well-executed, high-intensity routine watched by millions of viewers is proof of our fascination with this performing art.
More than 12 million viewers watched Strictly Come Dancing at its peak in 2013, rarely falling below 11 milllion. Such is the spectator quality of these events that sports clubs, companies, schools and charities have been setting up special events to bring people together in a fun, fit capacity which is a bit out of the ordinary.
Thirty-two employees of Microsoft got in the swing of things recently with their own 'Strictly' event. "We ran a fundraising event in the Croke Park Conference Centre, attended by over 400 staff," said Kevin Gunning, customer service manager.
"The strictly event organised by Kevin Rowe incorporated team building, a seven-week fitness regime, fundraising and a fantastic gala night out. Staff from across the team danced various different dance styles and really enjoyed the whole process. It was great to see all the competitiveness taking place over the weeks in training, and it all coming together on the night with over €50,000 being raised for Temple Street Children's Hospital."
The beauty of the character Nick in the movie Cuban Fury is that he is an ordinary, normal guy. Robbed of his chances as a youth to be a Salsa champion due to an accident, he follows a different path. But he discovers it's never too late to relight his passion for life and love, as he takes to the dance floor once more.
"Salsa and dancing is an amazing way to keep fit for men and women of all ages, especially when so many people are disconnected," advises Marinko, of Salsa Dublin. "We get to communicate again through movement and music. It really is a great way to meet new people."
A team of four dancers representing Ireland made their way on to the world stage in Madrid over the St Valentine's weekend.
"This is the first time that Ireland was represented but with the amazing growth in the numbers taking part and the availability of brilliant choreographers, we are sure to have some champions in the future," adds Marinko.