Week 50: The [Salsa] Rhythm is Gonna Get You [Score +14]
Dance—in a pretty non-traditional sense—has been a pretty big part of my life from the time I was 10 years old. My first experience with tap dance as a small child was miserably boring and turned me off of it, but after discovering and falling in love with clogging—followed by years of traveling and performing on a team with my mom (a much more fun experience)—I found an active pastime that can become a part of my life until the end of it.
My clogging team dissolved when I went to college, but I used that opportunity to try something I'd wanted to for years: ballroom dance. It was offered as a phys-ed course that would satisfy that required credit, so I signed up in my very first semester of freshman year. I loved it, found a partner, and continued dancing ballroom throughout my college experience.
I competed in ballroom for a couple years (enjoyed the dancing, didn’t enjoy the competition), then tried my hands (er, feet) at salsa, swing, and Lindy Hop in later years. In the last six or seven years, other activities (and life) have taken priority, and I’ve missed having regular reasons to get out and groove.
One thing that's held me back from dancing more: the lack of a partner. I want to try a number of different styles of partner dancing, but showing up solo can be awkward.
When I discovered a local group teaching Rueda de Casino—a casual, street-style salsa danced in Cuba—I was intrigued. In this style, the dancers switch to a new partner every 10 seconds or so when the caller calls out your next move seven or eight beats ahead of time.
If you come expecting to dance with your own partner, you may actually be disappointed. Solo dancers are encouraged, and what's more, the leader and follower roles are not gender-specific: women can be a leader, men can be a follower. In this style that's most often danced in neighborhood gatherings, all that matters is that you have enough people to dance.
The local group in Indy makes the beginner experience as welcoming as possible: the class is eight weeks long, but the first two weeks are just $5 each, and you don't pay for the remainder—just $40 for the final six weeks—until week three.
I felt a little rusty after several years of not dancing, but I regained confidence quickly and could hardly get the smile off my face.
One aspect I appreciated was the diverse nature of my classmates: some had never danced in their life, while others, like me, were experienced but trying a new style. We were nearly even in distribution between men and women, and ages ranged from early twenties to retirement. And a wide spectrum of ethnicities, backgrounds, and accents mixed together as we danced.
I'm excited to find a style I want to keep doing on a regular basis.
- Did something outside my routine: +1
- Left the house: +1
- Did something entirely new: +1
- Activity benefits my health/wellbeing: +1
- Burned real calories (so I got some exercise): +1
- Signed up for an activity without knowing anyone else involved: +2
- Had a conversation with a stranger of at least 30 seconds: +2
- Had a conversation with a stranger beyond basics (i.e., work, hometown, what’s your dog’s name): +2
- Learned someone’s name: +3