Come out and dance

Nathaly Rafton and Jason Salinas, who are dance friends, learn how to salsa dance at the ninth annual 'Come Out and Dance Under the Stars' in Burbank. (Tim Berger / Staff Photographer / August 16, 2012)

To the casual observer, Burbank may not look like a hotbed of salsa and swing dancing. But anyone looking a little more closely this summer would have discovered crowds filling the sidewalks of downtown Burbank every Thursday night, stepping out to the smooth stylings of renowned salsa, rock and swing ensembles.

Concluding next week with a performance by Louis Cruz Beltran and his orchestra, Burbank's Business Improvement District has been organizing the popular “Come Out and Dance Series” for nearly a decade. Events are held along the AMC Theatre walkway at San Fernando Boulevard and Palm Avenue, and are free and open to the public. The series draws an eclectic crowd, including local families, young and seasoned music lovers and dance aficionados, as well as those who fortuitously stumble upon a free show while shopping in the popular downtown district.

Lively bands including rock 'n' roll revivalists Captain Cardiac and the Coronaries, L.A. Cuban salsa purveyors Orquesta Charangoa and renowned salsa orchestra La Sirena y Orquesta Mar De Ashe have performed at the weekly, all-ages concerts this summer, which bring out an average of 2,000 people every Thursday night.

“I really enjoy playing events where the whole family can attend,” said La Sirena, leader of Orquesta Mar De Ashe. “That's the beauty of events like this. You don't have to pay for a babysitter — bring everybody and bring your kids and let them be exposed to culture and let them learn to dance. That's one of the things that attracted me to salsa in the very beginning. It attracts people of all ethnicities and socio-economic levels, and of all ages. And you're never too young to learn to dance salsa!”

The city of Burbank also organizes other events throughout the year, such as family celebrations for several holidays, the Burbank Arts Festival in November, car shows, and the Downtown Burbank Farmer's Market every Saturday morning.

“The main goal of the Business Improvement District is to benefit business and property owners,” said Marissa Minor, the district's operations coordinator. “We hope to strengthen the Burbank community and bring in lots of shops and restaurants. It's a fun area where people can come together.”

As part of the dance series, local instructors offer free dance lessons, usually starting at 6 p.m., giving attendees an hour to practice their moves before the bands go on at 7 p.m. Here you'll find dance students of all ages, shapes and sizes honing their turns and dips, and encouraging new attendees to join in on the fun.

“It was great to see the very high participation in the dance class — they had really good energy,” said flutist Fay Roberts who leads salsa band Orquesta Charangoa. “It's not pretentious or snobby. The dancers are really having fun with the band and they're really into it.”

Minor pointed out that in addition to the concerts and dance lessons, several Burbank businesses are finding creative ways to bring people together while having a good time and giving back to the community. “Flappers Comedy Club does comedy shows to raise money for various nonprofit organizations, and My Big Fat Greek Restaurant recently held a fundraiser for the Burbank Temporary Aid Center,” she said.

Now that the summer series is winding down, Burbank city organizers are already planning ahead for next year.

“We'll definitely have more events next summer,” Minor said. “We might change it up a bit, but it will always be free and a great opportunity to come out and meet the neighbors.”

La Sirena said it's inspiring to see Burbank putting on these types of family-friendly events.

“You see people from age 8 to 80 come out,” she said. “In this country, ages have become very separated, and that's a sad thing. Anything like this series that can bring them together is a great thing. I myself will dance with anybody — I don't care how young or how old, as long as they don't stand on my feet!”

LAURA FERREIRO writes about music for Marquee.

--

Louie Cruz Beltran and his orchestra; the closing night of Burbank's “Come Out and Dance” series. Admission is free. All ages.

When: Thursday, 7 p.m.

Where: AMC Theatre walkway at San Fernando Boulevard and Palm Avenue, Burbank.

More info: downtown-burbank.org/events