Allen Ford, of Severn, from left, Dexter Kendrick, of Landover, and Michael Haggerty, of Baltimore, take a salsa lesson from Vanessa Beltran-Medina at Azul 17.

Allen Ford, of Severn, from left, Dexter Kendrick, of Landover, and Michael Haggerty, of Baltimore, take a salsa lesson from Vanessa Beltran-Medina at Azul 17. (Sarah Pastrana, Patuxent Publishing / March 29, 2012)

Now, after you’ve finished a margarita and an enchilada at Azul 17 in Columbia, you can strap on your dancing shoes and stay for salsa lessons. On Thursday and Saturday nights, the dining room at this sophisticated restaurant-lounge is transformed into a dance studio.

Last year salsa lessons at Azul 17 were offered the first Saturday each month. But this year the frequency has been upped to twice a week. “People love it and enjoy it,” says general manager Carlos Oseguera.

Beginner, intermediate and advanced lessons are offered for $5 each on Thursday nights at 8, 9 and 10, respectively; however, complimentary lessons for all levels are offered Saturday nights at 10. “The Saturday class is more casual. People mingle and hang out,” says Oseguera. “The Thursday classes are more structured, more serious.”

Vanessa Beltran-Medina, one of the instructors for the Thursday night classes, has been teaching salsa dancing since 2001. “Salsa is international,” she says. “There are all kinds of nationalities that take to it. It’s also ageless. It attracts people young and old.”


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As for attire, Beltran-Medina recommends shoes with a little bit of a slip. “The important thing for ladies is it doesn’t matter so much if you’re in heels as much as if you can turn,” she says. “You don’t want to wear rubber shoes that stick to the floor. Guys, as well, need to be able to execute a turn.”

Oseguera encourages everyone to give salsa a spin. “Come as you please,” he says. “Enjoy yourself. Our only requirement is that you have fun.”

Azul 17, Columbia Market Place, 9400 Snowden River Parkway, Suite 127, Columbia, 410-309-9717. www.azul17.com