Salsa for Beginners (or Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone)

Photo by Ardian Lumi on Unsplash

“Let yourself go!” he shouts. “One, two, three” pause “six, seven, eight.” “Enjoy it!” he barks. “One, two, three” pause “six, seven, eight.” My young dance partner twirls me round and somehow whacks me on the head in doing so. We burst out laughing as we struggle to keep going in time to his muttered counting. Our bald, tanned, swivel-hipped, all-in-black teacher Carlos continues his commands as we step and sway.

It’s a typical Monday night at my local salsa class. Twenty of us are partnered up in a circle in a bright, mirrored, dance class, focussed and intent. When I first moved to Valencia a year ago, doing a regular salsa class with the hope of one day being able to go to a salsa club and actually dance with people (rather than cringe, freeze, turn down the gallant dancers eager to whisk me to the dancefloor) was top of my wish-list.

I spent a month in Cuba a couple of years ago and was entirely seduced by the way people could dance there, from tiny children moving fluidly to dignified smartly dressed 90-ear olds; and particularly the beautiful, self-possessed twenty-somethings who made salsa dancing cool, in their casual denim shorts and trainers, dancing with ease and throwing in Michael Jackson style swoops in a balmy outdoor club overlooking the sea.

Being vulnerable, letting go…

My beginner’s classes started a couple of months ago, and although I had done some one-to-one classes in Cuba, this was the place for me. I’d been to a huge, popular salsa club earlier in the year, and had been too intimidated to dance. I’d forgotten how to move and felt seriously self-conscious. I needed to start from scratch.

And I am learning. These lessons are in Spanish. My Spanish is getting there but still, I sometimes struggle with the listening part. (“Preparados?” Sure, I’m ready…) Half the time I have no idea what my teacher or dance partners are saying to me. I just smile and laugh. I feel uncomfortable, vulnerable, exposed. But, these classes are teaching me to let go, to not have to be in control. To not care what I look like, how ungraceful I may look. To not worry that I don’t understand the names of the moves, and that I can’t for the life of me remember them all.

… and going with the Flow

There’s nothing like that feeling of flow, when you’re doing a move you’re actually mastering, your feet are doing what they need to without too much thought, your partner is spinning you effortlessly, you feel like you’re a dancer at the 1830 club in Havana… This may only happen occasionally, but it doesn’t matter. I dance for this feeling. And to enjoy the simple act of moving to music, feeling the beat. I dance with a big grin on my face.

I’m out of my comfort zone, I don’t know what I’m doing, it’s hard, but I absolutely love it. Is there something you’re putting off because of fear of not knowing what you’re doing? Something you think you’d secretly enjoy? Is now the time to try?

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