I’ve taken to trying to incorporate salsa lessons and sessions into a semi-regular schedule lately.
I’m drawn to the incessant energy, the beats that instantly move me to the point where I can’t sit still, the rhythms that give my feet a dexterity I didn’t know they had.
The Latin scene here is surprisingly active- somewhat strange to me, given that Australians pronounce paella “pie-ELLA” and hot sauce seems to be an acceptable alternative to salsa (can we just talk about how much I miss good Mexican food). Clearly, viva la revolucion never made it this far.
Yet despite the tragic lack of acceptable comida, the dance culture is thriving here. There are at least four well-attended public weekly sessions that are hosted at various bars and pubs throughout the city, most of them free.
Being a musician is very helpful when it comes to these things, as all I really have to do is follow and keep track of where we are within the beat, and that somehow merits me an above-average partner. I find though, that ability has little to do with what I get out of it.
The best dancers- men are always the leaders when it comes to these things- are self-assured, precisely rhythmic and above all, fun. Spontaneity and the ability to improvise are crucial. The worst dancers aren’t necessarily those that are new, but those that are routine. Shyness quickly wears off in these circles, and by dancing with a variety of partners you come to realise that judgement is pretty silly, everyone has their own style.
The injection of energy is addicting, heady. Whirling amidst a sweaty, pumping crowd of salsa fans, I can’t help but see I’m not the only one affected this way. People express their delight differently- some staring straight at you with cheshire grins, some with blissful smiles, some by spinning and turning until I’m dizzy. For me, sometimes the experience becomes so overwhelmingly joyful that the only possible response is to throw my head back and laugh. I feel that this movement, this music, is food for the soul.
“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”