New Year is always filled with self-promises – get fit, lose weight, try new things. This optimistic triad leads to my salsa classes being packed out with eager new recruits - but what is it like to learn to dance? Over the past decade I’ve taught hundreds of people to dance and thought I’d jot down a little what it is like. You can find a note of my new classes and how to register at the end of this post.
Salsa? <insert nacho joke here>
Salsa, like the sauce, is a blend. The dance fuses different cultures, histories, dances and music. It is a fast paced dance with its roots in the Caribbean. Popular all over the world there are many different styles, I teach Cuban salsa. Forget what you’ve seen on Strictly, salsa isn’t about sequins, lifts and fake palm trees, salsa is a dance for pubs and clubs. It’s about travelling anywhere around the world finding someone you might not even be able to speak to but through an international unspoken language having a wonderful impromptu dance. See an example below.
Rewire your brain
If you can walk and text at the same time then you can dance. The basic step is like inconvenient walking. One foot, other foot, other foot, pause, other foot, other foot, other foot, pause – it’s the pauses that make it tricky, breaking it away from the constant walking pattern that brain and body is used to. Little by little, week by week, this pattern gets easier and eventually ‘click’. Just as walking feels natural the salsa step becomes natural which frees up your brain to worry about the rest of your body.
Leading and Following
Salsa is almost always danced in couples - one is a leader and one a follower. Have you ever turned a corner of a supermarket and come face to face with someone? You move to the side to let them pass, but they do the same so you go the other way – as do they. You end up in an awkward repeating shuffle. Leading and following removes this problem. It is one person’s job to decide on the moves and direction of both people and it is the other person’s job to read the cues and execute the indicated moves. For the supermarket scenario it would be like one of you reaching forward and sweeping the other person to the side before moving straight forward. Leading is often seen as the man’s role and that women are the followers. In my classes however I never use gendered terms and want everyone to do whichever role they want.
Salsa can be a complicated dance. It’s rare to dance a set routine meaning that couples are constantly improvising and making the dance up as they go along. The leader decides which move to execute and then communicates the intricate step to the follower, but without speaking. At class I teach the language of salsa – the words, the phrases and the punctuation but it is up to individuals to turn these into a song on the dance floor. The mixing of the words and use of punctuation leading to a unique and enjoyable dance. The raising or lowering of a hand, the flick of a wrist or nudge of a shoulder all take on clear and important meaning on the dance floor.
Feel good factor
One of the most extraordinary things about dance is how it makes you feel. The physical exercise combined with the mental concentration to get the dance correct results in an incredibly mindful activity. No matter how worried, grumpy or bad you are feeling dance has a miraculous way of having a positive impact on body and mind. By throwing yourself into such an immersive activity it gives welcome relief to the day to day stresses.
Two left feet?
"Oh it's not for me, I've two left feet" the phrase destined to produce any dance teachers most pained smile. Let me worry about how good or bad you are, that's my job. Dance should be fun and it is easy to get into. Very few people will have a innate ability and even fewer will have an uphill struggle on their hands. Like swimming or riding bike all it takes is a little time and practice and soon a whole new world will be opened up.
How much does it cost? It’s £40 for an 8 week block of classes.
Do I need a partner? No, very much not. Around half the class will be there on your own, I will partner you up.
What do I wear? Whatever you are comfortable in. You’ll be moving around but it's not a spin class.
Footwear? For beginners anything will be ok. As you get more advanced you might want to dance in whatever you’ll wear out to the pubs and clubs so many people wear heels to class.
When will I be able to dance? You will be dancing from week 1. By week 8 you should be pretty comfortable dancing in class with me shouting the moves. To be comfortable dancing in pubs and clubs I’d say around 4 months.
My new Glasgow classes:
Wednesday 10th January 7.30pm 333 Woodlands Road
Monday 15th January 8.30pm, 333 Woodlands Road
Thursday 11th January 6.00pm, Barca Princes Square
The salsa school I teach for also lots of other start date options. You can find details and booking here.