Why You Should Not Give Up

I really wanted to learn Salsa. No, not the tomato sauce that goes well with corn chips. I am talking about the dance you see on TV. You know a bunch of good-looking people moving their bodies to the soundtrack of a fun life. I wanted to be that guy skilled and confident moving around the dance floor with a smile. Popping into a Salsa club while travelling to meet new friends who may not be speaking my language but we could still understand each other through the magic of dance.

Being married to the idea of becoming that person I signed up for an 8-week class. It was awkward. A group of people from all walks of life shuffle their feet together with instructions from the teacher. 

To make things even more complicated music in Salsa has different from the four-by-four beat you normally hear in a club playing house to techno. On top of that, your favourite song from Avince uses a drum to create rhythm. In Latin songs, there could be up to 4 percussion instruments doing that thing. They can sound like a bird, a frog or a metal can. A teacher would normally start counting to help with an awkward shuffle start. By when trying this trickery on my own I was lost.

My commitment to the cause was undeterred. I signed up with three different schools to try other styles of teaching. It took expensive 1-on-1 lessons for eight months. I practised my new cool moves at home making my flatmates chuckle. Nothing worked. Frustrated I walked out after one lesson vowing to never come back. After spending all that effort I threw in the towel. All until I went to Colombia.

That place is a different universe altogether. I had the greatest trip, unlike anything I experienced before. One evening our travel buddies suggested going to a Salsa club. I felt the ball of refusal coming up my throat but a couple of shots of aguardiente made courage pour out of my ears. And we went and danced. Admittedly in my head, I was probably a much better dancer than in reality but it did not really matter. The muscle memory (and more shots) carried me through the night just like those cool people on TV.

The music, moves and people everything made sense that night.  Just like penguins with an awkward shuffle on the ground become gracious swimmers in the water. Salsa is best understood in its native environment. And it was finally fun. Then we had the infamous outbreak with lives being placed on hold. Dealing with bigger issues was a priority until a few months ago places started to open up. Masks taken off, glass screens in shops removed.

So last night I found this school in my city that was a bit like my trip to Colombia. The teacher made everyone laugh with a warmup routine, funny remarks on the proper pronunciation of Spanish (Its merengue not merenge) and a genuine effort to make everyone become a skilled dancer. As the saying goes when the student is ready the master arrives. It felt that this was the moment.

We just like penguins should continue looking for our water to practice what we dream of doing. It’s worth the awkward shuffle and seemingly spent in vain efforts in the end.

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