| || || | PHEW! FOUR hours of salsa leaves me breathless, clothes sticking to me, cotton-mouthed, toe-cramped, but still wanting to be twirled ever more and ever faster. The liveliness that seeps into my hips, feet, arms, and shoulders from all that rhythm makes me wanna salsa till my legs fall off - if only the DJ could last that long.
Well, OK - I get excited enough to think I could dance all night, but that tends not to be the real-world occurrence. I do enjoy taking time out to quench my thirst and rest my dear feet. Also, as I’m still a learner, and as this type of dancing requires a partner by default, whacking my lead in the face or stomping on their toes tends to dampen the excitement, but only a little (and mostly for them). However, I have come a stretch from my days of learning the basic step.
My first experience with salsa was in a ballroom dance class I took as part of a study abroad program in Guadalajara, Mexico. Ricardo, the instructor, was a bald, squat, vivacious, 40-something who didn’t let his height of 4'6" stop him from dancing with gals who were 6'6". He was a fun, loud personality, but his dancing style was a bit overpowering, so any follow dancing with him had to be on guard. Hence, I learned to dance a cautious salsa, holding onto my lead for dear life to avoid being flung to the wall during a turn or smacked with flailing arms.
In Guadalajara, I made it out to a salsa club ONCE to put my skills to the test. And who was the featured band that night but Merenglas, a merengue group. Ricardo did teach us a few merengue steps (introducing the dance with "if you know how to do the potty dance, you know how to do the merenge"), so I did a little potty dancing on the dance floor, enjoying the time with my amigos, sipping my cubita (rum and coke), and laughing at the booty-shaking routines of the band members.
Since Mexico, I’ve come to learn and practice a more relaxed version of salsa. I like not being as cautious and tense, because it gives me and the lead more freedom of movement, allowing for more agility and creativity.
There are really so many aspects that excite me about this dance. Besides the music and basic movement, much of my excitement comes from achieving the impossible: the step-turn-twirl-arm-twist thing that leads into another twirly-step-turn-twisty-spin, which I’ve been struggling to perfect for a month and which I seem to have FINALLY executed with grace, style, and on perfect count. I feel something like a queen in that moment.
Also, there’s the watching. When I get those rare moments of sit-down (half a song per ten), I scan the dance floor for a couple to watch. When I find the right one, I study their steps while I follow the twirly skirt and sparkling pumps with my big, admiring eyes.
This brings me back to one time in my life, fantasizing about myself as a pink tu-tu’d, music-box, ballerina princess. I don’t much see that happening now-a-days, but maybe that young dream is related to my more recent fantasy: performance! With the assumption that performance-level salsa takes a bit of preparation, it will be a while yet, but I am taking classes - another piece of my salsa experience I'll share.
Basic Back Step in Salsa Dancing for Beginners
Now you see, Anyone can Salsa
Illustration from Clyde Mendes column at slotMusic, Florida