From the mouth of a salsera…

Arriving at Cape-Town & Just Dancing Salsa!

 June 25th,  2012.

It’s pouring with rain in CPT, cold and wet. How very inspiring!

Coming from Hamburg I’m on business & time out at the other end of the world. So there are many evenings to fill even with a full schedule… I brought my dancing shoes, not really knowing what to do with them. Finally, I am a female social scientist, past my fifties, mother of five great kids – and not thoroughly a dancing queen and definitely not in a totally unknown country.

But then friends told me about “Just dancing Salsa” at the Barbosa, near the Waterfront. Hmmm.

“Why not give it a try,” I asked myself?

After some bad cancer events I had two Salsa classes in Hamburg which taught me at least when and where to put my feet, not with too much fun. That was not really “dancing”, that was more sort of jumping around rather clumsily. And so I felt: just clumsy. Should I really try again…???

I did, one Wednesday, stepping in on one of the Salsa classes with Lani & Carlos, Just dancing Salsa, being more scared than excited.

But what a surprise?! Even after only a few minutes it was good fun, though I was clumsily tapping around, getting confused with steps and rhythm in a foreign language and scarcely getting my feet out of the way of others. But Lani & Carlos just focussed on the positive results. So there were some veritable remarks like “awesome!” and “great!” every now and then coming from Carlos and they sound truthful, despite how I felt.

“This was hope,” I thought!

After this first lesson, which had brought me right in the middle of an advanced class, Carlos & Lani talked to me, suggesting stepping into the running courses and as well having “some additional private lessons” with both of them in order to keep up with the rest of the group and  “to get the feeling of Salsa”. Well, this sounds reasonable! They also suggested joining the Bachata beginner class in order to develop a better rhythm-feeling.

“Hmmmmm.”

Now let’s talk plain stuff: Bachata was the least I wanted to experience in CPT after two of those dances in Hamburg!

Me? No! Never ever! Not this knee bumping, hip wagging, dancing-with-my-legs-apart what-ever-it-was-thing!

But both were smiling at me. “You’ll just improve your understanding of dancing Latin rhythm…!” Carlos said with a broad and cheeky smile coming from under his fancy little hat while Lani just looked sweet and calm at me. Could I resist this innocent smile? No, I couldn’t.

So we agreed on me having an additional Bachata class as well.

When I was driving home that night, with rain pouring out of all heavenly doors and corners, I was happily smiling while trying to get my car right on the wrong side of the road. After all, everything was on the wrong side in this country: cars, gearstick, windscreen wiper, blinker, even the crossing lights. So why not do things which I promised myself never to do?

So from that moment onwards I was learning to dance Salsa & Bachata as well as driving on the left side of the road: Lani & Carlos made it easy, always indicating that Salsa was a social dance – and men were supposed to lead the way.

This was going to be a major topic during our dancing lessons. I realized this from my first private lesson onwards.

“Men lead the way on the dance floor, Cilia! Wait for me!” Carlos kept repeating.

Now, how can I accept that, being an old German business lady used to living a sort of self-determined life for many, many decades???  My mind would get the message but my body was just resisting. What was I supposed to do? How can you a man let lead the way? It really was a hard time for me…

I realized very soon that it was one thing to understand mentally of how to. But it was something totally different to have your body and steps being moved by a man! It was also especially because this moving & looking into the women’s eyes – my eyes! – actually was looking & feeling very sexy. Even if I felt unsure, I just had to watch Lani & Carlos: Yes, it was sexy! Very sexy indeed.

Oh boy…!

“One –two – three – and heeep! Five – six – seven – and heeep!” Lani’s teaching expertise kept us all busy, learning and laughing. This Bachata rhythm you will never forget, I tell you! So finally I fell in love with dancing Bachata.

 Anyhow – it was all simply studying and training and both Lani & Carlos were encouraging all their students to dance: after the classes, in between the classes, on every possible occasion! Since we regularly changed partners, being couples or not, everybody learned to dance with everybody else, and everybody got the same chances to experience to dance with either Lani or Carlos, meaning to experience the difference of dancing styles and levels. What varied experiences!

And very often there was this inspiring comment from Carlos, “Awesome!” when a turn was ok. And even if the person did not really believe the truth of his judgement, it still was giving confidence and certitude. Is there anything else you need on the dance-floor when you are a beginner?

I decided not!

So finally I ended up dancing Salsa or Bachata four times per week, taking every advantage of dancing Salsa in town. When walking up Lion’s Head, I still tried to do my Salsa rhythm and turns when nobody was watching. So sometimes people would look funnily at me on my way down.

And the really nice experience was: Very often Lani & Carlos would turn up at the Salsa Parties in town and we could watch them. It was always amazing to see how beautifully they were dancing, Lani swirling around and bending like an elf while Carlos seemed to lead her very soft and gently. But however beautiful they were dancing together, Carlos later would always be dancing with all their students while Lani was swirled around the dance floor by the other guys.

Even on the party floor Carlos would comment on the progress everybody had made with an “awesome…!” you just had to believe.

There is a moment when you really start believing that! And then progress starts by itself.

So after 6 weeks of training, fun, enjoying and party, I felt safe on the Salsa dance-floor! My turns are swift and gentle, I get the rhythm right (ok, mostly…), my partner runs a fair chance of leading me – and I had a wonderful time, much fun and lots of new and inspiring experiences!

And then I even found somebody to make my personally designed Salsa dress, which is now swirling around my legs when I turn…! IT IS really awesome!

 

August 5th, 2012, back home in Hamburg:

Thank you Lani, thank you Carlos, for those great weeks in Cape-Town!
Will be back soon.
xxx Cilia

Terrified of the dance floor?

Still afraid to step onto the dance floor? 

Many beginner leads complain about not being able to remember the turn patterns they learnt in class. And they do not feel confident that they will be able to remember their steps and leads when taking a lady onto the floor.

Here’s the thing: YOU DON’T HAVE TO!

All you need to do is remember a few simple steps: You need to be able to do the salsa basic, a cross-body lead and one simple turn. Apart from that, just smile and enjoy it!

When you want to grow from this, do not try and remember the entire routine you learn each week. Rather pick one step that you particularly liked, or the only one you remember and add that to your repertoire.  That way, over the year you could possibly add 52 steps to your collection. Since the most experienced dancers usually use less than 20 actual steps/patterns and then repeat them, you will have more than enough to allow any salsera to enjoy her 4 minutes on the dance floor with you! And that is really what you are after- nothing fancy, just simple enjoyment!

So be confident men… the ladies are longing to dance with you!

I’ll see you ALL on the floor at the MASQUERADE SALSA PARTY!

Salsa & Status

Do you know something random I love about salsa?

It removes all the status with which people are normally labelled. What I mean is this: On the floor of many salsa parties are heart surgeons, computer geniuses, CEOs, business owners and those who only need to work for six months of the year. Dancing right alongside them are penniless students, NGO volunteers, teachers, lecturers and  the down and out.  Yet most often, nobody knows and nobody really cares what their dance partners do – as long as they dance and enjoy it!

It’s about the dance, it’s about the music, and it’s about the fun. It is not about what you do in the week. That doesn’t matter. You’re there to dance!

I grant you that there may be a little awe here and a pat on the back there for those more experienced dancers, but this in no way determines any hierarchical order within the salsa community.

Tell us what random thing you love about salsa?

Dance on salsa lovers!

What makes a good dancer?

Simply put… Stubbornness.

The best dancers are incredibly stubborn! When they know they can’t do something, they do it. Usually over and over again so that what they cannot do becomes what they can do. Often it irritates them so much that cannot do something that they determine to get  that something right usually before the next time they are going to dance.

Seldom do they get it right in a studio. Most often it is in the kitchen or in front of the tiny bedroom mirror, in the shower or randomly in the street. Or, and this is a common one, in the grocery queue. This is because the best dancers dance absolutely everywhere while life happens around them. They do not let it go! It’s stubbornness!

Every opportunity to dance is taken. It is not given up for the comfort of home or for an enticing fad. Whenever they can dance, they do. With whomever they can dance, they do. If they happen to hear the right music, they dance. If there is a dance party, they go and they dance. If there isn’t a dance party they throw one, and they dance.

Dance stubbornness perseveres. It doesn’t leave you be. It doesn’t stay for only a short time. Good dancers do not dance for a few months only, they stick to it for years. And their stubbornness sticks with them.

Be stubborn.

Dance!