Salsa Dancing, Cali, Colombia
It was time to take myself out of deep contemplation high up in the chilly mountains and and lighten things up in hot hot Cali, Colombia with a little Latin salsa dancing…vámonos!
Cali is major worldwide hub for salsa dance along with Cuba and Puerto Rico though oddly enough salsa dance started in New York. Go figure. Cali though, is the spot that’s internationally recognized as the place where all the competition winners come from. My mission in Cali was to take the salsa dancing community by storm and become their greatest star! Not really, but that along with sequent dresses and rhinestoned shoes is what my daydreams look like. I do have a background in dance and have always wanted to explore the latin variety of hip shaking, so I signed up for some one on one lessons. Lesson 1: It’s hard.
Day one: wearing my backpackers finest, I wandered in with ripped yoga pants that I’d been wearing for days and shoes still dusty from climbing volcanos. I showed up an hour early. I could hardly sit still watching. The music echoing in the empty space and radiating from the dancers was already exciting.
When my turn came my enthusiasm was matched by my instructor and the dancing began. Not thirty minutes in and and hour and a half to go, I was sweating, panting, and sore. And I liked it. I walked out that day elated and ready to conquer my new favorite obsession.
My legs were sore, my abs even more so, and my feet ached the worst. Every single day for the next week I hauled my broken body up the same hill, through the park, past all the people relaxing and through the same doors of the simple studio with greater determination than the day before. My mind always strongly focused while half dancing and counting the whole way there- cue that one scene from dirty dancing.
I no hable the Espanols and my teacher spoke no English. Thankfully the language of dance is universal, but my very invested instructor wasn’t about to let me get away without learning the name of each and every step in Spanish leaving my brain dizzy from more than just spinning, my mind and body happily exhausted.
The spirit of salsa is infectious. There is an energy behind it that is invigorating and addicting. The better you get, the more you want. The deeper you feel the music, the more lost you become. Mornings were spent training and evenings spent showing off on the dance floor. Sleep is unnecessary when you’re high on dance induced adrenaline.
Everyone in Cali knows where the party is on any given night. And every night gets packed with dancers late into the twilight. The clubs aren’t the kind for hook-ups. Those in search of flirtatious, drunken evenings ending in a bump-and-grind get looked over for partners with actual skill.
It can be challenging to muster up the courage to put yourself out there, especially on the dance floor for all to see, to wonder if you’ll be judged. Drinking as a lubricant is out of the question for me, the rhythm starts to blur worse than my vision so I’m stuck with insecure sobriety. Once you start dancing though slowly but surly the f*cks just go flying out the door. Next thing you know, you and everyone around you is soaked in sweat, smiling, laughing, and living in the moment. Pure enjoyment. Every once in a while you just have to let go, let loose, and just have fun. After all, it’s just salsa.