Twenty guys, or maybe thirty, in less than one hour. That’s how it goes with 100 people learning to salsa. We form two large circles. The followers (“usually ladies”) are the inner circle facing out, and the leaders (“usually men”) create the outer circle facing in. I can tell the teacher is unsure about these gender specific words. From this point on we are “leaders” and “followers,” which requires a different self-assessment. We pair-off. The music is turned up, and we practice the basic step for about a minute. Then the teacher says, “Change partners.” Followers stay in place. Leaders shift left to the next partner, like a reversed carousel. The next guy holds out his left hand to me, and we dance another minute or so until the next “change partners.”
The teacher has instructed us to smile. Some people don’t know how. Are they trying to look tough, or do they just have bad teeth? A few words may be said. “How’s your day goin’?” More often, we just move our feet and count out loud, “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven,” just like Sesame Street.
There’s not a lot of space on the dance floor. Ordinarily, I avoid close contact with strangers, but here, I’m an anthropologist. (Think Margaret Mead in heels and a short skirt.) I marvel at the diversity, not just differences in color and size, but attitude, from self-assured to smart-ass to shy to awkward, attitudes reflected in the way they dance. Self-assured has done this before. Smart-ass corrects my position. Shy can’t make eye contact. Awkward can’t do the simple basic step. He is sweating, really sweating. Sixty seconds become sixty minutes. When will the teacher say “change”? Please save me from this guy who’s never heard of deodorant.
Then comes Garlic Breath, and I stop inhaling. Next is Sweaty Palms, and I dry my hands on my skirt. There’s the guy in the Cal t-shirt. “I went to Cal,” I volunteer. Why did I say that? He might ask me what year? I could lie. Who would know? Finally, Hot Latin Ballroom, with requisite gold chain, whose torso twists like he’s made of rubber, and I am Dancing With the Stars.
Two of my 20+ partners had a few grey hairs. The rest, I figure I am old enough to be their mother. I tell this to Gary. “Try grandmother,” he points out. I look around the room. Maybe. But I can dance with the best of them.
Oh I love this!
You paint a vivid picture of what it was like to be there learning to Salsa. I especially love the way you describe the dance partners (Garlic Breath, Sweaty Palms) and “More often, we just move our feet and count out loud, ‘One, two, three, four, five, six, seven,’ just like Sesame Street.”
The last paragraph is wonderful 🙂
Thanks, Myrna. I’m trying to convince my husband to go back!
Fun! And great sense of humor here. Something about partner dancing allows us to know people in ways that ordinary life doesn’t.
So true, including knowing your life partner.
Love it! I’ve taken dance classes and know exactly the people you describe. I’m also the one bumbling though!
You’re probably better than I am.
Yes! As a ballroom dance teacher for 30 years, having taught these latin circle mixers to thousands of people, you really nailed the experience.
I’m ready for my next class. Great if I could take it with you!
With your fabulous story-telling techiques-probably learned at “Author’s school- (great use of descriptive words) I feel like I am right there. Great exercise.
This sounds like so much fun! Except for the SweatyPants. I guess some minutes are longer than others.
Very true. At least it’s only a minute – more or less.
Harriet–Love this short little tale! Wonderfully written. much love, K
*Karen Gordon* Principal Strategic Horizons, Inc. 718-596-6544
Thanks, Karen. Did the Cuba travelers ever learn to salsa?
I started with tequila. You wouldn’t be the only introvert in the room.
Love your wry humor. Never really wanted to dance with anyone but my husband for all the reasons you show here. As an introvert, I would find your class a horribly painful experience. Unless I had a glass of champagne first. Maybe. 😀
How fun! For a moment I felt like I was in the room swapping dance partners too.
Happy to meet you there anytime!
this made me smile!
I love it. Please, when you are ready, let me take you guys dancing in the city!!!
That would be so cool! My old dancing partner doesn’t have the bug as much as I do. Maybe your invite will entice him!
Sent from my iPad