My salsa story begins
about 5 years ago. Through a weird set of circumstances I me one of the Bay
Area orquesta leaders. He invited me to see his orquesta perform. Wow. Cool.
Why not? I had never heard live salsa music, much less watched salsa dancers -
I was always up for new experiences and figured I might as well see what a salsa
club is all about.
I got dressed to go to
the club. I put on some black dress shoes, a pair of black slacks, a white
shirt and a black vest. As I walked out the door, I saw my white Cuban straw
hat (with a black band). I bought the hat after seeing some old footage of Desi
Arnez. I never had an opportunity to wear it and I figured this was as good of
a chance as any.
I got to the club as
the lesson was ending and the dj started playing. I grabbed a Corona, took a
seat in the back of the club, and waited for the band to start. A very
attractive woman walked by me, looked me up and down, and then asked me to
dance. I was very flattered but told her "I don't know how to dance." She
looked at my hat and started laughing. She said "Very funny, let's dance." I
again explained that I didn't know how to dance. She rolled her eyes, grabbed
my hand, and said "Come on," as she lead me to the dance floor.
Having never taken a
lesson before, I did my best to imitate the actions of the other dancers who
were turning and twisting away. I stepped all over this poor lady and tossed
her into other dancers. Less than two minutes into the song she stopped
dancing, looked frantically around and said "I see some people I have to go talk
with." I was left standing in the middle of the floor.
I bought another
Corona and sat in the back of the room bitterly drinking the beer. As the next
song started another woman walked by, looked me up and down and then asked me to
dance. I again explained that I didn't know how to dance. "Ha, ha," she said,
"Let's dance." She interrupted my protestations by grabbing my hand and leading
me to the floor.
Less than two minutes
I again found myself standing by alone in the middle of the floor. I was a
little upset. I left the club before the band even started. Salsa sucks.
Fast forward to
January of 1999. I was in San Diego visiting my aunt and uncle. We went to a
salsa club for one of their birthdays (this time I was a bit wiser and dressed
in my skuzziest clothes so nobody would mistake me for a salsero). My uncle and
aunt danced and I was blown away. Those two simply didn’t dance, as they moved
they became an extension of the song. It was spectacular to see and I was
completely mesmerized. I have always enjoyed listening and collecting music. I
realized that this was a new way to experience the songs. I also realized that
if I didn't learn how to dance, at some point someone was going to come up to
me, ask me for my Latino Card, and tear it up. Membership revoked.
I decided I had to
learn how to dance salsa (plus I have to admit that I just ended a relationship
and this seemed to be as good of a way to meet women as any other). I also
realized that the key to learning salsa (as with most things) is repetition. I
decided that I would take classes two to three nights a week for three months
and see what happened. For the first two months I hated it. When I started
taking classes, I drove from Oakland to Mountain View on Tuesday nights to take
classes. Don’t get me wrong, my instructors were incredibly patient and
professional. It was just a bit tough to find out just how untalented I was at
this new thing.
Slowly things began to
click. I started to "hear" the music. I was able to dance and not have to
count out loud. The smiles on the faces of the followers started to look less
forced and more genuine. I started to realize as I watched other dancers, I
wasn’t looking at the women, but instead was watching the movements of the
leaders (“How did he do that step?” “That pattern is similar to one that I know,
but he did a little something extra at the end.” “How did he do that extra
footwork as he brought her across?” “Was that a triple hook turn?!?”).
I got addicted. I
found myself going out four nights a week and lying about my whereabouts to my
non-salsa friends - heck, I started to classify people as being either "salsa
friends" or "non-salsa" friends. . . Anyway, you get the point.
As I spent more time
dancing, I realize that there is a whole salsa-subculture. There were classes
being taught all over the Bay Area. I found classes that were closer to home
and started taking classes from Ava and Luis in Berkeley – another set of
consummate professionals (I continue to take these classes). I found that there
was live music five nights a week (at that time). I was like a kid in a candy
store – and my appetite was insatiable.
Well, over the last
two and a half years I have kept up the same pace. My collection of salsa CDs
now outnumbers my mariachi CD collection (and that says a lot). I have met many
dancers, promoters, band members and consider quite a few to be like family.
I started working with
SalsaCrazy about a year ago. The decision to help out Mr. SalsaCrazy with his
web site was probably because I know that I could use my work as an excuse to
justify my addiction ("Mom, I would really love to go to Grandma's funeral, but
I am committed to go to a salsa event for SalsaCrazy.com - sorry"). Ok, it's
not that bad, but pretty close.
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