Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Getting my groove back

I haven’t been quite so enamoured with salsa dancing recently, I think partly because I just needed a break for a few weeks after over a year of multiple classes per week, and partly because the female instructor I take classes with has become extremely intense since I moved up to her intermediate class a few months ago. She was always bossy, but now she’s turned into a bit of a salsa psycho and it’s putting me off dancing. Not exactly the mark of a good teacher in my opinion, deterring your students, and quite frankly there are enough people at work who shout and throw tantrums; I don’t need it in my spare time, especially not when I’m paying to be there. I took a couple of weeks off from her class to give it some thought and I doubt I’ll go back.

Otherwise I’ve been sticking with lessons with the male instructor, D, who’s much more of a perfectionist than the woman, but has an incredibly laid back and encouraging manner. He doesn’t race through demonstrating the moves and then scream that you’re doing it wrong; instead he teaches us a few steps and then comes around the class as we practice, giving pointers individually. He’s all about quality over quantity and with his mellow attitude it’s a joy to take his class, although I’m having more than a little trouble with some of the styling moves, the flourishes that add a little extra flair to your dancing. I’m especially bad at the body roll which we practiced last Thursday. It just does NOT come naturally to me and I was complaining to my salsa buddy, Leon that my clumsy attempts at styling make me feel like such a rhythmically challenged white girl. I had to laugh when he turned to me and said “girl, you move better than I do and I’m Dominican. People don’t expect YOU to have rhythm, but me, I’m Latin; I got a reputation to live up to, I’m letting my people down.”

“And there is NO WAY I am ever doing THAT in public” he continued, pointing to our instructor who was demonstrating travelling hip circles at the front of the class.

Personally I can’t get enough of a travelling hip circle; it’s the one sexy Shakira style move I’m fairly good at. You simply move your hips in circles like you’re hula hooping while stepping clockwise in a tight circle. The men aren’t so keen on doing it though and when demonstrated in class it’s a move that’s guaranteed to send them all scurrying to hide in the back of the studio. Too feminine a move for them I think, although somehow our instructor manages to make it look masculine.

No hip circles this weekend, although I did take the plunge and join the Salsa Fiesta Meetup Group for some outdoor salsa dancing at Lincoln Center’s Midsummer Night Swing on Saturday night. I love the salsa at Lincoln Center, it’s a great beautiful setting, especially after the sun goes down and they always attract fantastic live bands and an eclectic crowd, from parents with their kids to experienced salseros showing off their dance skills and older Hispanic guys resplendent in their guayabera shirts who look as if they’ve been freshly plucked from the streets of Cuba.

A mere $15 will secure you a ticket for the dance floor, erected in the middle of Josie Robertson Plaza, and includes a 45minute lesson of whichever flavour of dance is the focus of the evening...salsa, tango, swing, funk, disco, soul...,you name it, however if you’ve no need of the lesson – which is basic even by the standards of those who’ve only managed a few studio classes - you can dance for free on the surrounding plaza, which is what we did.

I had a fantastic time and it went a long way to helping renew my enthusiasm for dancing, especially as I bumped into a few old friends who I haven’t seen in class for months. I even managed to brave a few spins on the ‘dance floor’, despite initially feeling a bit shy in front of the crowds of onlookers, including a dance with Reuben, an advanced dancer I’ve occasionally come across in dance class, but who I’ve never actually danced with. He’s...well, he’s an interesting dancer. He has a lot of confidence in himself and frankly seems to think he’s sex on legs if the lascivious facial expressions he was throwing my way were anything to go by. This would be sex on very short stubby legs, since he can only be about 5ft 3 and b
eing so short he was disconcertingly eye-to-eye with me as we danced – I'm only 5ft 1 myself so I’m used to having to look up at my dance partners – and stared at me very intently while pouting and wiggling his eyebrows. As a follower I had no choice but to look at him, to pay attention to his lead, but it was very off putting to watch his facial expressions and I had to bite my buttom lip to keep from laughing. While dancing with Reuben I also realised there’s such a thing as too much styling, since he used so many flourishes I had a hard time recognising where his styling ended and the lead began and the God he doesn't half wiggle, I mean I know it's salsa, but there are limits. It was like dancing opposite a goldfish that had jumped out of its tank. Yes, it was an interesting experience, but not one which I care to repeat too soon, maybe when I'm a more experienced dancer myself, but this time I thanked my lucky stars we danced to a fairly brief song, 3minutes was more than enough.

All in all it was a fun night, although my knees ached a bit on Sunday from dancing on concrete in flat shoes. I’m getting old!

No comments: