Where Everyone Forgets their Troubles, and their Names

Salsa club brings together real live Latins with Slav afficionados

By Marcia Caceres

When the world spins around, and you do not know where you are going, you may be sure that you are dancing some good salsa.

For those with a strong love for salsa music and dancing, Palanca, Prague’s biggest salsa club and restaurant, serves up a jaw-dropping experience.

Ven, ven, ven a bailar la salsa!”—‘Come, come, come and dance the salsa!’ plays in the background, as flips and turns are performed everywhere on the dance floor. The women in dancing heels are ready to go, and a group of spectators stand about admiring the moves. The sometimes dour, reserved atmosphere of the Czech capital is transformed by the club’s electrifying Latin vibe.

Palanca was established in 2003 as a replacement to former Latin Club Tendr, which went out of business after the destructive, record-breaking flood that swept through the country in 2002. The club, with a different schedule every week, maintains a salsa night on Wednesdays welcoming experts and beginners to the tropical interior of the dancehall.

Palanca is a place to forget problems, rest and enjoy oneself.

Prague Wandering Spring 2013 Issue Number 2 Palanca Salsa Club

Palanca offers an environment for all levels of dancing.
Photo by Marcia Caceres

Pablo, the 35-year-old Angolan owner of Palanca, refused to provide his last name, even when asked repeatedly (perhaps he had been enjoying himself too much to remember).

As he revealed, one can fully “live in the moment and get away from everything else” at Palanca.

The club is located on the roof of Kotva, a shopping center in Prague’s downtown, across the street from the Namesti Republiky metro stop.

Palanca has an intimidating entrance: past an alleyway there is an elevator covered in pink and blue graffiti signatures without an inside door.

There is a soundproof wall to conform to the no noise after 10 p.m. Czech law, so no music is heard at the club entrance, and pieces of the city show through a wire mesh pathway between the elevator and main entrance door away from the roof corners.

On the fifth floor, one enters the club, which is adorned with bamboo branches and other plants. Colored lights glow in the dark of faux Caribbean warmth, transforming Palanca into a vacation oasis.

Salsa, a dance style from Cuba, and Bachata, a dance style that originated in the Dominican Republic, attract native Latin dancers as well as Czechs, making for a great variety of people within the place.

The clubbers are described by Pablo as “everyone who has any connection with Latin, you know, Portuguese, Spanish and even Greek.”

But because over time salsa has gotten more popular in Prague, more Czechs than ever before are flocking to the club.

Czechs, who usually take years of dance lessons starting in elementary school, have recently begun adding Latin music to their ballroom repertory. Dance professor and native Cuban Angelo Repilado has taught classes to groups of ten students ever since the club started. “I was one of the very first ones here,” he recalls of his early teaching days. He teaches at Palanca as well as elsewhere and his students usually come to the club after class.

 “I like to be at Palanca because of the dance floor, the attention given to people, how respectful everyone is and the deejay,” Repilado said. The dance floor, spacious and made out of wood, allows dancers to smoothly move around to the good selection of music played by the house deejay.

“This music genre creates a fantastic atmosphere because it is exotic for Czechs, because we all like to be happy, we want to forget about our problems and just have fun.”

Palanca, named after the giant sable antelope, the palanca-negra-gigante native to Angola, symbolizes vivacity and velocity. So far the club has lived up to its name, defying expectations. Pablo explained that when the club first opened, it was rumored that it would last only a few months.

Since 2003, the original club with dance classes has changed in only one aspect — the addition of a restaurant featuring international cuisine. This change has created opportunities for people to hold big events there, such as conferences or dance competitions.

This year from March 27 until April 1 Palanca held the fourth Zouk Congress. Zouk, a fast tempo style of rhythmic music originating in the Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique, brought together about 40 artists from all over the world and offer 70 workshops to the public.

Palanca offers an environment for all levels of dancing. Tables around the dance floor and a big bar allow for observers to integrate with the salsa community. The observers sometimes join in with the experts doing complicated flips and sexy turns. Beginners show off the basics by their tables. And even if a mix of skills occurs when in the dance floor, mostly everyone keeps going after their twirl mishaps and laughs about it. “It is all about having a good time,” commented David Poveda, a Colombian at the club.

As one is led to the dance floor by Czech gentleman, experiencing new steps and turns evoke a smile. Even if one is no expert in twirls and turns, communication is transmitted through dance, if not through language.

The Czech salsa experts allow one to perform steps never tried before. As long as the rhythm guides one’s body, any language barrier will disappear and one will enjoy dancing on a Wednesday night in Prague. As Pablo says, “This music genre creates a fantastic atmosphere because it is exotic for Czechs, because we all like to be happy, we want to forget about our problems and just have fun.”

Latino Dance Club Palanca– Namesti Republiky 8, Prague 1, 110 00, Fifth Floor

Tel: +420 776 251 040

Marcia Caceres is in the NYU Class of 2015, majoring in Journalism and Anthropology. Her hometown is Bogota, Colombia.

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Categories: Culture, Spring 2013 Issue Number 2

Author:The Prague Wandering

The Prague Wandering is an NYU based study abroad webzine- the only one of its kind. It focuses on issues in contemporary Czech culture and the city of Prague, exploring beyond the study abroad bubble.

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