Nostalgia: Part 2 The Cramer Era (October, 2016 - February, 2020)

nostalgia | nɒˈstaldʒə | noun [mass noun]: a sentimental longing or wistful affection for a period in the past.
***

From its inception The Salsa Club always had one goal in mind: to bring as many people together through the magic of social dancing. In its first life as Salsa Windhoek it sought to do this by hosting indoor parties. At the time, the strategy made sense: social dancing was in its infancy; suitable outdoor venues were hard to find; and the Zum Grünen Kranz Steakhouse, which had an unused ballroom, generously provided space to host classes and socials alike. With the restaurant’s closure in the middle of 2016, though, a new venue had to be found.

While its previous indoor socials offered an intimate ambience, venues capable of providing the kind of dance experience Salsa Windhoek desired were at a premium. And even though a handful of restaurants could have become a second home, there was the general feeling something was amiss. What that thing was remained a mystery.

In 2016, Cramer’s, a Namibian ice-cream parlour, opened in the heart of Windhoek’s CBD. It quickly became the hotspot for café cuisine. It had everything going for it: proximity to the city’s hubbub; a wide, concrete courtyard offering protection from the elements, and a romantic ambience which attracted a diverse clientele. If ever there was a fortuitous meet-cute of two disparate enterprises—social dancing and ice-cream—Cramer’s and The Salsa Windhoek Social Club were it.

At the end of each month, in Namibia’s long summer season, Cramer’s came alive with a street party that welcomed dancers of all kinds regardless of skill or experience. Slow salsa tunes serenaded the setting sun, later on the mid-tempo and fast tunes took over. Dance hall, reggeaton, Afrobeats, and select R&B, hip-hop, and funk beats allowed everyone to find something to dance too. Bachata slowed things down and closed out the party.

Each social had a unique energy: September brought people out of their winter hibernations. November had the largest turn-outs as the year wound to a close. February, after a two-month hiatus in December and January, felt like a meeting of old friends. May had everyone scrambling to dance before the winter chill set in. No party was ever the same, just like no two dances or dancers can ever be the same even if the dance floor and the music do not change.

Without a cover-charge the parties attracted a melange of dancers: the young and old, students and working professionals, skilled and amateur salseros and salseras, as well as locals and travellers alike. At one point, a particularly enthusiastic Colombian dancer used to make the three-hour, 253km drive from Otjiwarongo to Windhoek just to dance. To have seen the eclectic mixture of people and personalities brought together by dancing was to have lived. If the Zum Grünen Kranz era was Salsa Windhoek’s incubator, then Cramer’s courtyard is where The Salsa Windhoek Social Club truly came into its own.  The missing factor had been found: a community.

For three and half years the street parties brought a cosmopolitan feel to the city and became a staple of the social calendar: if you wanted to dance, you had to go to Cramer’s at month-end.

In February last year, just before the global lockdown, the last street salsa party was hosted. There was an air of uncertainty about it. No one knew the severity of the COVID-19 outbreak. Few could predict its spread and eventual consequences. The last song from that faraway evening—Fragilidad, Rhythm Del Mundo’s cover of Sting’s Fragile—is distant and haunting, it is the music of another time. Back then it was widely felt and believed the period of lockdown would endure for, at best, three months and, at worst, six. Everyone eyed September with great optimism.

What no one prepared for was a year filled with lockdowns and curfews, isolation and quarantine, and social distancing. Without contact, there could be no community. Dance and distance are ill-matched partners.

And, yet, throughout, The Salsa Club’s watchword remained the same: The music paused, it did not stop.

Holding onto that sentiment now seems justified. There are changes in the world. Small, incremental, sporadic—but changes nonetheless. The coronavirus is not having it all its own way.

Nostalgia is a bittersweet and unfulfilling fruit—it is not a sustainable or suitable way of life. The Lessons For The Living are clear: “The sweetest dance is the one that just ended, the best one is always the next one. There will be more dances. Always.” While it is romantic to talk about the past, it remains important to remember that it is the present and its progress as well as the future and its potential that hold the most promise.

The tune and tempo are changing. Slowly. Like any first, hesitant dance.

But soon the rhythm will pick up.

Soon and very soon.

In the meantime, though, these memorable posters from the The Salsa Windhoek Social Club’s Cramer era of street salsa dancing confirm one thing: you had to be there to see it.

Nostalgia, Part 2: The Very First Street Salsa Party. October, 2016. © The Salsa Club.

***

Nostalgia, Part 2: The One Where We Almost Did Not Have Sound. December, 2016. © The Salsa Club.

***

Nostalgia, Part 2: The One That Let Windhoekers Know Salsa Was Not A Side Dish. January, 2017. © The Salsa Club.

***

Nostalgia, Part 2: The One Where The Police Showed Up. February, 2017. © The Salsa Club.

***

Nostalgia, Part 2: The One Where Rueda Was An Occupational Hazard. August, 2017. © The Salsa Club.

***

Nostalgia, Part 2: The One Where Storm Warnings Were Issued. March, 2017. © The Salsa Club.

***

Nostalgia, Part 2: The One That Warmed Up A Namibian Winter. May, 2017. © The Salsa Club.

***

Nostalgia, Part 2: The One Where People Did Not Care How Cold It Was. July, 2017. © The Salsa Club.

***

Nostalgia, Part 2: The One Where Cramer’s Ran Out Of Ice-Cream. October, 2017. © The Salsa Club.

***

Nostalgia, Part 2: The One Where Cramer Ran Out Of Ice-Cream Again. November, 2017. © The Salsa Club.

***

Nostalgia, Part 2: The One Where It Was Not A New Year Unless It Started With Salsa. January, 2018. © The Salsa Club.

***

Nostalgia, Part 2: The One Where Japie Became A Salsero. February, 2018. © The Salsa Club.

***

Nostalgia, Part 2: The One That Went On Way Past Midnight. May, 2018. © The Salsa Club.

***

Nostalgia, Part 2: The One Where Spring Could Not Come Quickly Enough. September, 2018. © The Salsa Club.

***

Nostalgia, Part 2: The One Where A New Country Was Born. November, 2018. © The Salsa Club.

***

Nostalgia, Part 2. May, 2019. © The Salsa Club.

***

Nostalgia, Part 2: The One With A Record Attendance. November, 2019. © The Salsa Club.

***

Nostalgia, Part 2: The One Where DJ Drumspeak Stole Our Souls. October, 2020. © The Salsa Club.

***

Nostalgia, Part 2: The One Where We Did Not Know What The Future Held. March, 2020. © The Salsa Club.

***

All artworks are the property of The Salsa Club and may not be reproduced without prior permission.

1 Comment

Submit a Comment

Comments are closed.