Friday, 2 February 2007

At least Michael Douglas has his own teeth

My salsa instructor finally told me this week that I’m ready to move up to the level 2, advanced beginner, class. Whoo hoo, it’s about chuffing time. I’ve been slogging away in the basics class for almost 6months now and if I'd had my way I'd have moved up at least a month ago, however he's a bit of a perfectionist my instructor, but you only have to see him dance to realise that he probably knows what he's doing.

I've been biting my tongue and trying to be patient, but I was definitely getting bored of practising the same steps week in, week out. I'll give him his due though, he’s worked miracles given my lack of coordination in my first few lessons. You would have never have guessed I took dance classes for 11years as a kid - although admittedly that was 20years ago. It took me two weeks to get to grips with the basic step, which is essentially walking backwards and forwards.

Happily I’ve come a long way since then and I’m pleased I stuck with it and worked through the frustrations, although I still find it hard to get over my innate British-ness and lose my inhibitions with the styling, the flourishes that supposedly ‘add a sensual flair’ to your dance steps. It looks amazing when done well, but it doesn’t exactly come naturally to me and I always feel my moves are more ‘I’m a little teapot’ than sexy salsa goddess.

Oh well, maybe the styling will come with time, although it’s hard enough trying to keep a straight face while trailing my fingertips across my hair and down around my neck, all the while giving my partner a come hither look, so throw in having to do the footwork and following the guy’s lead at the same time and’s a recipe for disaster. I worry that one of these days I’ll get so caught up attempting to coordinate the styling, the footwork and the following, that I’ll accidentally smack my dance partner in the face with my flailing arms and either break his nose or give him a black eye. It doesn't bear thinking about.

The good thing about moving up to the advanced beginner class is that not only will I learn some new steps and get to dance with men who are more experienced at leading, but I’ll no longer have to fend off the attentions of the geriatrics that seem to have taken a shine to me in the basics class. I'm flummoxed as to what it is about me that encourages 60plus year old men to ask me out, but deters men my own age. Answers on a postcard please.

I’ve been fending off the attentions of Walter, for about 3months now and the man will just not take no for an answer. I think he assumes I am just playing hard to get and that persistence will win through in the end. It won’t. It was even worse last night when he brought along his friend, Jorge, who also took a shine to me - WTF??? - and pestered me to come to a Latin music club in Canarsie– way way wayyyy out in Brooklyn – with him on Thursday. I declined several times, thankful to have my new level 2 class as an excuse, but was he put off? No, of course he bloody wasn’t. ‘Oh you can just come after your class, I’ll meet you at the subway station at 10pm.’


I was very relieved when the instructor shouted at us to ‘rotate’ and I was able to escape Jorge and move onto my next partner, although my relief was short lived when I spun into the waiting arms of Walter. Better the devil I know I suppose. Unfortunately, perhaps sensing competition for my affections in Jorge, Walter resumed pestering me to visit him in Coney Island for a tour of the neighborhood, his home town. About 3 months ago I made the mistake of mentioning I’d never been and he’s been bombarding me with invitations to experience the delights of the boardwalk ever since. I was only making conversation when the instructor was late to class one week. That’ll teach me to be polite.

He’s been quieter these past couple of weeks and I'd mistakenly assumed he’d finally got the message that I had no interest in someone 30years my senior. Unfortunately his fervor hadn’t dimmed, it was just napping and bristled quickly awake at a perceived threat from a romantic rival. The fact that I’ve no interest in either Jorge or Walter is of little relevance; my rejection having about as much success at halting their advances as a pea shooter against an approaching battle ship.

Walter must have asked me out 20times over the past 2-3months. I can only assume that he thinks he’ll wear me down eventually. After declining his Coney Island invitation for what feels like the zillionth time, he changed tack and insisted I go to Tuesday night salsa at Club Copacabana – yes, the one from the Barry Manilow song – with him sometime so that we can practice dancing. Hmmm, not before hell freezes over!!

Miles, my GBF who lives in London and an eternal romantic optimist, suggested I give one of these older men ‘a chance’ since my love life has been ‘almost as dry as the Gobi Desert’ since moving to New York five years ago. I can only assume he must be suffering from some sort of mental breakdown, since besides the fact that I’m generally not in the habit of dating men older than my father, we’re not talking about a couple of suave sophisticated older Cary Grant types here.

Walter bears a much closer resemblance to old man Steptoe than Mr. Grant. He’s very tall and skinny, with knobbly knees – he favors shorts for class, worn with socks and heavy work boots, all the better for crushing my toes when he steps on me - is rarely clean-shaven and has the air of a heavy smoker about him, not that he smells of cigarettes, but he does have an attractive hacking cough that’s a dead giveaway to him being an ex-smoker, and more often than not he turns up with lunch stains down his t-shirt. Delightful eh, just the type of man you want leering at you, commenting on how attractive you are and pestering you for dates. If I didn’t admire my instructor so much I would have run screaming from the studio long ago. With all this attention I’m beginning to feel like the Catherine Zeta Jones of the NY salsa scene.

Thankfully now that I’m moving up to level 2, I’ll be taking classes on Thursday instead of Monday, so chances of running into my admirers are slim, especially given their troubles with the most basic of steps, they’re even worse than I was, so fingers crossed it will be a while before I bump into Walter or Jorge in the advanced beginner class.

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