Two weeks ago Sunday, I went to a club in Berlin that offers Salsa lessons, for 5 euro entrance fee.
I walked upstairs and saw that the group had already started, doing some sort of turns around their partner. I was confused for a minute because I was an absolute beginner. I thought maybe I had misread the German on the website. I continued to watch when I noticed a hispanic woman come close to me. I looked her briefly up and down and then shifted my gaze back to the instructors. The girl walked past me to the bar nearby. Eventually, the instructors told everyone to try the move and see how it works. The aforementioned girl walks next to me. And she then confirmed my suspicions that she wanted to dance or practice with me.
“Willst du mal probieren?”
(Do you want to try?)
“Ich habe doch nie Salsa getanzt. Ich bin gar nicht mit Salsa erfahren.”
(I have never danced Salsa. I have absolutely no experience with Salsa)
“Ah okay. Die Anfänger sind im nächsten Zimmer.”
(Ah okay. The beginners are in the next room)
Sure enough she was right. I walked into the room next door and saw that the men and woman were arranged in opposing lines, with the instructor and her demonstrator in the middle.
At first I was completely lost. But eventually I got the hang of the the front to back moves. Then the instructor started doing side to side moves. I figured out how to do those as well. Then she lost me when she started transitioning between the two. I had no idea which foot to transition off of.
It was time to pair dance. I got the teacher’s demonstrator. She was large and obtuse. But if I stared at our feet, and our legs, I could reasonably pretend I wasn’t dancing with a blimp. I’ll admit it made it easier to pay attention to my dance moves.. After first I was nervous and had no idea what I was doing. But my partner was helpful and explained what I had to do in German. I learned that the man transitions on the left foot. On her insistence, I stopped announcing transitions and started just doing them. Suddenly I was dancing Salsa!
Back to the lines.
We practiced transitioning again and this time we learned how to let the girl do a turn, with a raised arm after a left step on the man’s part as the signal. At first I was completely clueless on how to execute this maneuver Now I am just mostly clueless. I managed to twirl her around.
Back to the lines.
We practiced some more and then the lesson was over. It was time try out my new found skills. Unfortunately, most of the girls my age were taken. They had come with a date. Or they found a better salsa dancer. So I decided to dance with the older ladies. That way I could focus on my dancing anyway.
I simply walked up to a lady who was not offensive to my eyes and offered my hand. I wasn’t turned away once, if I recall correctly. They were very patient with me, even when I would stop after making a mistake. They’d say it’s fine and just to keep moving. Even for older women, these ladies knew how to move. Note to self – find cougars who are good at salsa.
Eventually, I believe my frustration would bleed through (or boredom with simple moves) and the woman would say thanks for the dance and I’d find the next lucky woman. The hardest part for me was to keep up with the rhythm When I was dancing with these ladies, they kept wanting to ask my name and where I was from, distracting from my dancing. We’d have a conversation and the further the conversation progressed, the worse my dancing would become.
Something was afoot though. The last woman, presumably in her forties started closing her eyes as we danced. As if to go with the flow. Then every now and then she would stare in my eyes smiling. Of course I’d smile back, but in my head, I’d wonder, “What the hell is she looking at?”
Then I realized.
I shall try this Salsa thing again and keep up with it.
I leave you with a video of Brazilian kids from the 90’s. Damn can they move.
(H/T Vanancier Permanent for the video)