Tony “El Pana” Welch brings salsa to Ride-On! Bike Shop and Co-op.
By Danica Williams
Sunday nights, as the sun begins its descent and most Leimert Park businesses are closing their doors for the day, there is one spot that’s just getting ready to transform into it’s alter ego.
The Ride-On! Bike Shop and Co-op, a black-owned full service bike shop located at 4319 Degnan Blvd., undergoes a metamorphosis of sorts. Bikes are removed, the floor is cleared, a DJ sets up his equipment, and the transformation is complete.
The music of old school salsa greats like Oscar D’León and Héctor Lavoe mixes with Cuban favorites, filling the shop and the surrounding area with a rhythm that you can’t help but move to. Soon the small space is filled with dancers for the next four hours. What was a bike shop is now Tony’s Salsa Village.
Started by Tony “El Pana” Welch, a native of Panama and a well-known salsa instructor, Tony’s Salsa Village showcases the Afro-Latin culture that lives in South Los Angeles.
“I look at salsa as one of the most important forms of African dance that will bring together people of African descent across the African diaspora,” he said. “The drums beat in our hearts and unite us.”
People of all ages, races, and abilities flock to this weekly event, which will be celebrating its first year in this location in September. Whether you’ve been salsa dancing for years, or you’ve only thought about giving it a try, Tony’s Salsa Village is a welcoming environment where a good time can be had by all.
Each Sunday night, from 5 p.m. until 6 p.m., beginners can learn the basics of salsa by taking a class with Tony and then practice what they’ve learned from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m.
“The love in the air is infectious,” said Aisha Mayfield Dioum, who regularly attends the event. “The music touches your soul. I’ve been salsa dancing since the age of 15, and this place takes me back to when I fell head over heels for salsa.