If you ask some of the dancers from around here, they’ll tell you Taos does two-stepping a little bit differently than in other parts of the country.
It’s not the same as they do it in Texas. It’s not the same as they do it in Colorado. That’s why Taos Mesa Brewing calls its Sunday night gig the “Taos Two-Stepping Dance.” Most every Sunday night at Taos Mesa Brewing, the floor is cleared for dance lessons at 6 p.m. and then a live band takes over from 7 to 9 p.m., setting the pace for twirling and two-stepping.
This Sunday night (Jan. 1), Chris Arellano performs with his trio: himself on lead vocals and guitar; his brother, Rodney Arellano, on bass; and Scott Harris on pedal steel guitar. The band plays originals written by Chris Arellano in English and Spanish mixed in with cover songs. Free 45-minute dance lessons by Skip Belyea start at 6 p.m. The band takes over at 7 p.m. for non-stop dancing.
“Everybody is welcome,” says dancer Susan Dilger, who also serves as an emcee for the two-stepping dances. “It’s amazing exercise. If you don’t have a partner, don’t be intimidated. We’re very welcoming to guys and gals alike. Come out and give it a try!”
Dilger emphasizes that this is an all-ages event, and younger folks are especially encouraged to try the dance.
“It’s a wonderful tradition,” Dilger continued. “We have something very unique and very much a part of our community.”
According to Dan Irion, co-owner of Taos Mesa Brewing, some of the regular musicians who play at the Taos Two-Stepping Dance nights are the Bill Hearne Trio, Boris and the Saltlicks, Broomdust Caravan, Syd Masters and Doug Moreland. Out-of-town two-stepping bands are also featured from time to time.
This will be Chris Arellano’s second time playing the dance. Arellano grew up in Costilla, New Mexico, then left to spend time building a music career in Los Angeles, California; Nashville, Tennessee; and Oregon. He took a chance and returned to Northern New Mexico last August to see if he could successfully relocate his career here.
“It’s been fantastic,” said Arellano. “Taos has just welcomed my Nuevo Americano style of music. They’ve been really embracing it … It’s nice to be able to fuse some of the Northern New Mexican Spanish music in with my Americana country stuff. I draw crowds from the Hispanic community and the ‘not Hispanic’ community.”
Arellano said that those within the Hispanic community enjoy hearing a new twist to old favorites, while those who are new to traditional Northern New Mexican (i.e., norteño) Spanish music find that Arellano’s style is easy to listen to.
Overall, Arellano said he has been “getting a great response” to his music, and “it’s been a fun wave to ride.”
Arellano was one of four Taos musicians recently highlighted for the town of Taos’ free “Home for the Holidays” concerts held at the Taos Community Auditorium on Dec. 17. His trio was joined by his daughter, Jayden, and shared the stage with Robert Mirabal, Michael Hearne and Max Gomez. This past autumn, Arellano was also featured at Michael Hearne’s Big Barn Dance Music Festival in Taos.
Released in 2015, Chris Arellano’s self-titled debut CD showcases his Nuevo Americano style of music. The album covers wide territory with its blend of norteño music with country, blues and jazz. Two tracks, “Cuentas Que te Vas” and “Puno de Tierra,” held No. 1 positions on New Mexico Radio Charts and were some of the most-requested songs of 2015. The CD received a Los 15 Grandes de Nuevo México Music Award from the New Mexico Latin Music Academy and was nominated for nine separate awards from the New Mexico Hispano Music Association (NMHMA). Arellano won for original song of the year, songwriter of the year and crossover song of the year.
For 2017, Arellano plans to tour early in the year, with stops in New Mexico and Texas. He is also working on another CD, which will feature a blend of music like his first one did.
“If I like it, I’m going to record it,” says Arellano, “I’m not going to overthink if it’s a Spanish, blues or country song … Last time, I did what I loved, and it’s been working, so I’m going to follow that same template.”
Arellano said he plans to have Rodney Arellano, Scott Harris and his daughter (Jayden) play on the album. He expects to collaborate with other artists as well, especially artists he met at Michael Hearne’s Big Barn Dance.
“I love collaborating,” says Arellano. “It brings whole new ideas to the table.”
Arellano would also like to record a few more of his father’s songs in addition to the one he recorded on his previous CD. He will record the album with Don Richmond in Alamosa, Colorado; Darren Cordova in Taos; and in Nashville and Oregon.
Meanwhile, Arellano will perform around town as well as out on the road. For more information about upcoming shows, visit chrisjarellano.com.
Taos Mesa Brewing is located at 20 ABC Mesa Road, off U.S. 64 west. For more information, call (575) 758-1900. There is a $5 cover charge for the dance.