A year ‘on 2’
The first class I tried to go to, I turned around about a block away, chickening out from even going near the studio.
Another 6 months or so passed before I even got the courage to try another class.
People always think that I am so brave.
Ha. You silly people.
Ok, sure, I definitely have solo-adventure-courage, able to head out to the mountains and trails. But… dancing-courage? Not so much. In fact, I just kind of lack in any courage that involves strangers.
I took ballet lessons all through my childhood and adolescence. And, let’s just say, I definitely had more determination than skill. And by determination, let’s also just say that I showed up every week, and didn’t really touch my shoes any other time (who needs to stretch, really?!). I am not that musical, not really good at hearing the beat, and don’t have a dancer’s body. Ballet wasn’t the most successful thing I’ve ever done.
And, since then, most of my dancing has been a mix of bars, low lights, alcohol, and friends convincing me. Certainly not a bright studio with a big mirror.
Yet, I really wanted to learn to salsa dance. The music, the sass, the sexiness, the joy. It all looked so fun. Even for me, a non-dancer.
So, that second time around, I convinced myself to at least try. I talked down every fear that arose (what if I suck? what if everyone comes with a partner? what if I look stupid?) – and knew that at least my big mountain-climbing butt would fit right in (salsa dancing fortunately favors the booty).
That first month was tough, it was easy to try to talk myself out of it, and I hid out in the back corner. But it turned out I wasn’t that bad, the people were nice, we rotated partners, and almost everyone came solo. Turns out, I could do this.
So, now it’s been a year. I have had weeks when I have gone 4 different nights to dance. Other weeks I go just twice to class. I am slowly getting better, but definitely still a beginner.
But, in this year of learning salsa-on-2, I have learned a lot.
Learning is hard. It’s hard to put yourself out there and be a beginning again. And, it is so good for me. It is good for me to not know what I am doing and to have my ego put in check. I have a tendency to compare myself to those around me, but when we are partner dancing, all I can do is focus on doing the right thing in that moment, no one else but me and my partner.
Learning to follow. Salsa is all about a leader and a follower. I am much better at being the leader. Learning to follow has been a challenge for me, but slowly I am getting better at picking up on my partner’s cues and learning to feel the dance and his lead. I have also had to allow for my partner to lead and just trust that he has me. (ok, so this one is still a work in progress).
Learning to relax. I have been known to be wound a little tight. I can be silly and relaxed, but it is not my resting state, with strangers in particular. But, there is nothing worse than dancing with a stiff partner or trying to do the shines when your hips don’t relax (I know, mine don’t so well – so I get to see this in all its glory 2x a week).
Learning to stretch. I wish I could say that I mean stretching my flexible-as-steel legs, but really what I mean is learning to stretch me. A friend commented this past year that she could see my heart growing and stretching (a la The Grinch), and while I think there are a lot of reasons for this, salsa is definitely one of them. Week after week, showing up, sweating, making new friends, moving my body has loosened some edges in me that were in long-need of dullness. Salsa is giving me space.
I have no goals with salsa, just simply to keep going, keep learning. I still hide out in the back corner, and I look nothing like that picture, but I love dancing with a good partner. And I love the learning.