“I am taking a salsa class. Any interest?” A friend asked.
“Nice. That sounds like fun. I have never taken a salsa class before.” I said. “How coordinated are you?”
“I have two left feet!”
“LOL. Why not. I am in!”
This was how I kicked off 2020 by committing to a salsa class for three months. I didn’t grow up with ballet or gymnastic classes. That was not my family. Instead, my most precious toy was a set of plastic screws and pieces of plastic strips that I could connect together to make things. Second to this, I loved my train set that went around and around in an oval. But dance was always in the back of my mind after I was older. I had taken a dance class at my old gym once. Even though I had no talent, I really enjoyed it. That was why I thought, hey, why not!
I showed up a bit early for the beginner class. There were already two more advanced classes in progress. With instructors giving commends, everyone was paired up doing synchronized steps. What a simple and beautiful concept! You and someone agreed on steps and, with his lead, two people create a dance!
Of course, I am not at the “beautiful” phase yet. I started with basic salsa steps: front and back, left and right, and sides. Four classes later, now I could do four different types of turns. The instructors always started the class with foot work then let us get into pairs. It was fascinating to dance with different leads. Different ages, heights and builds. Different energy levels. Different dancing styles. I thought it was a great idea to rotate people around. Regardless of our differences, everyone was trying to nail the steps we just learned. Every three to five minutes, I got a new partner from the rotation. He saw me. He smiled. He reintroduced himself for the nth time. He held out his hands to take mine. On command, we stepped to the music. In particular, there was an older gentleman who might be around my grandfather’s age. He was very sweet with such a gentle touch which always warmed my heart.
When the instructor gave commands for the next move, it usually was three beats ahead of the first step of that next move. During the beginning of the third class, I was having trouble with my turns. For some reason, I kept messing it up while my lead tried to turn me. The instructor came over and told me, “Don’t turn when you hear the commend. Don’t control the turn. Finish the steps. Let him lead.” Oh, of course, I would try to exert control. I laughed in my head. So, I learned to slow down. I tried to “read” my partner’s tempo. And it got better!
Salsa reminds me of having a conversation. Like so many things in this world, listening is so important. We live in a world of constant communication. We have so many different interactions with others through many different channels. But rarely do we really stop and listen to someone carefully and intentionally. I am no better.
I wonder if I could dance salsa without someone giving commands?! That I would understand my partner’s intension and direction. No words. Wouldn’t that be amazing!?!
After dance, my friend and I would hang out a bit. I was always overheating. Even in this freezing weather, I would get an ice drink to cool down while he drank his hot tea. The last thing we talked about was that we desperately need to practice outside of class if we want to keep up!
I like salsa! I like how my 2020 started!