Wear whatever you want. Because going to the salsa club -- after having gone to salsa clubs for twenty years -- is only about dancing. Every time you go out however, it does cross your mind to wear an outfit exactly like this fringed beauty pictured to the left. It's not practical though, and most likely not very flattering no matter how fabulous it seems. But, wear whatever you like and keep in mind these things: Sweat shows up severely on brightly-colored cotton blends, even on light colored jeans and it shows in the most inappropriate places. Whipping and thrashing hair can be an issue as in slapping dance partners in the face, slapping yourself in the face, and most grossly, collecting sweat and subsequently catapulting drops on spectators. Shoes, as gorgeous as they can be, should not be the highlight of the outfit because you will pay dearly later for trying to be too cute in strappy, death-defying albeit FANTASTIC sandals unless you are a veteran dancer that has worn four-inch heels since puberty. Please note, there are many veteran dancers in this category. Jeans are popular to wear at clubs now, but some latin clubs will not allow jeans like the time you took your very trendy LA boss to the Copacabana fifteen years ago while on a business trip and even though you warned her that they may not let jeans pass as suitable salsa attire, she was appalled when they did in fact refuse her. She was more appalled that there was a metal detector at the entrance. You convinced the bouncer, in shoddy Spanish and not without insulting your boss, to let her in. And you explained to your boss that you WANT to go to the clubs with metal detectors.
After much consideration, wear black pants, a black clingy top with no sleeves and sensibly heeled boots. Do not wear too much make up as you will sweat it off on a messy shroud of a cocktail napkin. Curled hair may be a waste of time for the same reason. A slick ponytail is good or leave your hair down because whipping and thrashing can be sexy and you don't want to look too much like a school marm for the possibility that no one will ask you to dance, which would suck. A cute purse is cool, but more practically, consider one that can camouflage well after you fling it in a corner as you dance song after song and thus cannot babysit it. The purse must be compact, but able to hold essentials including a retractable hand fan you bought at the swap meet for $3.99 that has a cheap Japanese waterfall scene adorning the front. The fan is accidentally elegant and hip, but most importantly it is essential for cooling down between dances so you don't look like you've just completed a triathlon though the way you dance expends as many calories. Consider finding a line of triathlon-like salsa outfits, then decide against this.
Go with friends or meet friends at the club. Go alone even because all you really want to do is just dance. Upon arrival, go directly to the bar and order your usual. Don't stray (unless completely coerced by friends) because the trendy drinks have enough sugar to spike your insulin and put you in a bad mood. A well-made mojito is completely called for now and again. Order a diet coke and dark rum, preferably anejo rum. This tastes smooth and wicked and gets you to the ledge of uninhibitedness.
Find Your Spot at the edge of the dance floor where you think the regular dancers will hang out. Try to stand there confidently, like it's no big deal for you to be standing there by yourself. Try to exude, subtly, that you understand the complexity of latin jazz. Slightly bob your head and tap the "clave" rhythm with one finger on the edge of your glass. Survey the scene and drink your anejo and diet as quickly as possible. Don't let others notice how fast you are downing this. Casually drag your non dancing friends to this spot though they have no idea what they're getting themselves into standing there. They will recede into the voyeurs eventually and simply encourage you to do Your Thing. After your drink, put a stick of gum in your mouth. For some reason the combination of alcohol and a vigorous workout can make your breath smell like dried dog shit.
Because you don't go to the clubs frequently any more, try to remember who the good dancers are, but more importantly just try to recognize which dancers have an innate sense of rhythm. This is key. These are the dancers with whom you want to dance. Do not discriminate by age or height. Some of your favorite dance partners have been one-hundred year old cubanos that are 4'2". But these men wear tan and white wing tips and are easy to spot so look for the dancers that may be unrecognizably good.
Your first dance of the night is the most important. This will set the tone for the rest of the night. If the good dancers see that you can dance, you will dance all night long. If you start off with a stiff beginner, this could be a blow to your dance card. But there is a way to salvage this. Immediately, when you recognize your first partner is not so good, do not follow his lead so much for the sole purpose of showcasing your own skills. Break away from this partner and dance solo for a minute or so. This is not something you'd do with a good dancer, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
Initially, do not turn down an offer to dance. Any guy brave enough to ask you deserves a shot. They may even surprise you with their ability. Even the guy in his fifties dressed in all black including a spandex top -- an outfit eerily similar to your own -- who sports a south-american gheri curl and a snazzy silver western belt. If a dance is boring or bad, stick it out politely without sighing or rolling your eyes like you'd like to do. If a dance is jerky and dangerous in that he's trying new salsa stunt moves that he learned on the internet or from a video called Mambo Dips Part 4! and you fear you will go down during the dance, walk away mid-song leaving him stranded on the dance floor. He will know exactly why you did so and no discussion will need to follow. When an "Intermediate" dancer is trying new moves on you (without the threat of bodily harm), be a good sport. Do not mind that he is moving solely to steps and not to the music. When he messes up something, laugh it off and tell him to try it again. When you ask him where he is from, do not be surprised when he answers Iran/Russia/Israel/Korea/Montana. Tell him he is doing fine. Do not be mad that he thinks a salsa outfit equals high-waisted tight pants and a see-through shirt. Try not to be infuriated that he has doused his hands in cologne. Veteran dancers do that too even if that's your pet-est of dancing pet peeves. Fight the urge to smell your hands in disgust every five minutes.
If there is a great dancer that you would like to dance with, ASK HIM even if this is breaking typical etiquette. You should not give that much of a shit as a veteran dancer. This window to ask him may be small if he is a popular dancer. The best times to ask are right before a song begins or after his girlfriend has started dancing with someone else. His girlfriend is the one that actually wears the fringed dress pictured above. After this dance, no matter how great it is, do not ask him to dance again. He can ask you next time.
You understand, with your experience, that going out dancing is no longer about looking like a stuck-up sour puss, but only about enjoying the music and having fun. And getting a good workout. When you see the LA bimbo/supermodels at the salsa club who can't dance and teeter on their heels because of their blimp-sized titties, make fun of them in your mind. Feel better about yourself when you realize they have no clue how to move to your music. Be embarrassed for them. But smile at them because you don't want to come across as the threatened, hating type. When two of them brave the dance floor to do their lame pseudo-lesbian erotica for a reaction, dance your good-sized ass their way and show them how it should be moved and shaken. Shake it. Fiercely. And smile, laugh even. Show off, and pretend to do the bump with the girls or shimmy in their direction, and make your dance partner laugh at that. The young, sadly skeletal supermodels will be clueless as they writhe stiffly, uncomfortably.
The second you don't have the desire to dance again, leave. This tends to be after exactly two hours of straight dancing. Fish your purse from the dark corner. Grab your jacket and jet. Do not say goodbye to any dancers. This will give off a different message than the I'm Here to Dance Only message you've been promoting. Don't confuse the dancers.
Get your car out of valet. Check your change and count your CD's. Hydrate with electrolyte fluid during the drive home; wrap a towel around your neck. Daydream about the next time you'll be able to steal away from your family-filled, career-run, responsibility-laden life to dance again. Promise yourself you'll still go dancing when you're an arthritic and withered old bag.