Meet Yaenette Dixon, owner and founder of Charleston Latin Dance, a pillar of the Salsa community, and one of my best friends.
If you’ve been to Latin Night at Southend Brewery, Havana Nights at Voodoo, or any other Salsa social in Charleston, you’ve probably seen Yaentte Dixon out shaking a leg. She’s smooth, she’s sexy, and definitely one of the best social dancers I know. She’s also extremely dedicated—she’s been teaching group classes and putting on events through her company, Charleston Latin Dance since the summer of 2012.
This Saturday, she is celebrating her third year in business with a special Mambo Nights event at the Cannon Street YMCA. Bryan Stilo, an incredible dancer and dear friend as well, is coming from Greenville to teach a Pachanga workshop at 7 p.m., Terry Max from Fayetteville is teaching Bachata at 8 p.m., and Dixon will be teaching a brand new beginners intro class at 9 p.m., followed by social dancing DJ-ed by Victor Cerrone from 9:30 p.m.- 1 a.m. Stilo and local troupe Buen Ache are slated to perform, and a portion of the proceeds are benefitting RosaLuz Children’s Charity. The workshops are $10 each, the social is $8, and the package for both workshops and the social is $25.
“Here’s an event for both novices and experienced Salsa dancers alike!” Dixon says.
Dixon says she’s worked with more than 300 students in the last three years, and has expanded from offering a single Salsa class at the YMCA, to multiple Latin modalities throughout the Lowcountry. Her team recently performed at the Charleston Cinco de Mayo Festival, and she’s hosted instructors from all over the Southeast to teach workshops and classes.
I can safely say that Yaenette Dixon is the reason that I’m the Salsera I am today. I started going out Latin dancing in 2009, hitting Southend Brewery occasionally, but sticking to the fringes, never confident in my abilities and not knowing too many of the “real” dancers.
I met Yaenette in 2010, and shortly after, attended my first Salsa congress with her in Atlanta. We became fast friends, and she improved my Salsa technique dramatically. I’ll never forget going to practice with her and another friend on the Airforce Base in 2010, and having her make me do the basic again and again until I stopped clicking my heels against the floor. She introduced me to the “who’s who” in the Salsa scene, and since that first trip to Atlanta, we have traveled to at least a dozen congresses and events together. I apprenticed with her and Charleston Latin Dance for a year, and she taught me how to lead, an invaluable skill for any aspiring Salsa instructor.
I owe Yaenette so much for teaching me, inspiring me, and being an incredible friend, and I know that there are many others in the Charleston Salsa Dance community who can say the same. She truly cares for her students and their development as dancers—and people—and I’d highly recommend taking one of her classes or attending one of her events—she has perfected the blend of Southern hospitality and Latin flavor for her own special brand of Southern Sabor.
All photos by Michael Chen