foray into salsa

I love dance, all things dance, but classes are freaking expensive and time consuming. Classes can range anywhere from $8 to $20 for an hour and a half lesson. Sometimes, class sizes are huge, so it’s a struggle to get individual attention much less real estate in the mirror. Sometimes, the instructors are flakes and don’t show up until 15 or 20 minutes into your class time. Sometimes, I hate having to go through the endless weeks of basics to get to the stuff that actually challenges me. It’s really that last thing that bugs me though. Why am I going to spend over $100 on classes for nothing? I suppose I could always inquire with the instructor to “test out” of the newb class, but I never got that far.

And yet, dance–or any kind of movement–classes are practically required for my mental health. My whole world changes when I’m engaged in a regular class, simple or not. I’m happier, I sleep better, I’m generally a more pleasant person to be and be around.

So a couple months ago I bought a Groupon for unlimited salsa lessons for a month. I’ve been interested in Latin ballroom for awhile, but never had a significant other that was interested in taking dance classes with me. I thought coming with a partner was required, but I obviously, although recently, learned better. After I bought mine, I asked one of my besties if she was interested. She was and I gifted her the same Groupon. 

So last night we finally made it out to our first class. For having years upon years of dance classes, I really didn’t know what to expect, but I was excited! All kinds of people filled the studio. I learned they teach two classes simultaneously in the same room, which made hearing our instructor a little difficult at times, but overall it wasn’t that bad. The steps we learned were basic and boring and it didn’t seem like we were going to get into anything too creative. I kept my smile and my positive attitude. 

Then suddenly, we partnered up! I got the instructor, who seemed generally surprised I could do a basic step and started quizzing me on my experience. He gave me a very dubious look when I told him I had a little bit of dance experience, but none in salsa…technically speaking. He tried to trip me up a couple times, mostly my arm work sucks, but I kept up with my feet.

We switched partners throughout the night. It was fascinating how my style would change from person to person, depending on how they led me. One in particular was so chill, he really just fell into the music and we both expressed how much we enjoyed dancing together (he said I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere when we got to a tricky part, lol, it was pretty adorable).

At the end of the learning part, the class comes together in a big circle and everyone dances with each other, advanced students with the newbs intermingled. That was a telling experience. Some men were more relaxed and confident leaders. Others were clumsy, unable to tell me with their hands, they had to count, demand, and turn me awkwardly (usually with an air of frustration in their voices). Fortunately, not too many of the clumsy ones. I even got to partner with the studio owner, who also gave me a dubious look and started quizzing me on my experience. “You’ve done this before?” he asked. “Yep, for the last two hours straight!” I can’t help but be a smart ass. “Ever done partnering before?” “Not before tonight, no.” He tried to throw me a couple times and distract me, but I did a pretty good job keeping up! At least, he seemed impressed. I don’t care if he wasn’t. My ego loved every second of it.

I think my favorite moment of the night was the last man I danced with, for only a few short moments. The second he took my hands and guided me in three steps, he made this astonished face and said, “Wow, you’re really good.” Without thinking, I responded honestly, “No, I’m just following your lead.” It was kind of a beautiful moment of intuition between two strangers. 

And it’s moments like that why I love dancing so fucking much.

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