My excuse to myself was that I had to find the perfect partner first – for dancing and for life – and then pick up my passion. I could think of maybe three women on the planet I’d like to pick up dancing with :-)
F for failure
The girls in my class decided to sign up for dance lessons in 8th grade. Of course no one asked me if I wanted to join. I dragged myself to school anyway. I was insecure and giggled at every opportunity. Better be the class clown than showing how nervous I was. The teacher didn’t think so: It was suggested to me that I’d leave the class. In plan English: I was getting kicked out.
I spent the next 20 years watching others having a great time.
E for Effort
My friend Kevin in Los Angeles eventually showed me the way – without having the slightest idea about it. He took a salsa class with a friend of his and they started to show off. They jokingly mentioned that I should try it out as well. I wanted to surprise my friends who would have never expect me to dance.
I had also just ended a relationship and felt like doing something exciting instead of sitting at home with second thoughts.
The starts were aligned right. I vanished from the planet for my beginners’ salsa lessons for a few hours each week. I was as secretive as the guy in the movie “Shall We Dance“.
Life was good: Everyone rotated in the class.I didn’t have to ask the girls and they couldn’t really say no. I had a great time. There was just one little problem: I was a total klutz and my timing was completely off.
My teacher singled me out one time in front of the entire class: “Klaus, I am sure you are a man of many talents. Dancing is not one of them.” Ok, I made that line up but she did indeed say that I was one of her worst students ever.
D for Dedication
The story could have easily ended here. But my passion for music and dancing were bigger than my struggles with finding an ounce of talent for dancing in my body. There was also a number of other students who caught fire. Once the class was over we were all craving for more. Our teacher couldn’t get rid of us that easily. We weren’t even quarter baked yet.
She wanted to start a beginner’s dance team and we were the perfect victims.
It was also time to have some fun at a party at my friend’s place. After all, that’s why I signed up for the lessons. People were stunned and the surprise was perfect.
C for courage
The next milestone was a little bigger: Eventually I couldn’t hide in a dance studios any longer. I had to visit a club and dance in front of others. Please envision every salsa club in LA being stuffed with semi-professionals.
I only asked the girls I knew from class to dance with me. We danced the exact moves we learned in class in the exact same order we learned them. A human android would have been more spontaneous like me. This had very little to do with the concept of dancing. My brain was working harder than at preparing for a major exam.
A friend of mine actually crashed his car on the freeway while he was concentrating on remembering a dance move.
Eventually I asked another girl to dance that didn’t belong to our inner cycle. It lasted about 15 seconds until I heard “You are off beat”. I could see the girl was really getting annoyed. I guess this is what you call a “set back”.
Next on the horizon was our first dance performance. I had major stage fright. Of course I forgot parts of the dance routine and hopped around on stage like a chicken with its head chopped off for about 30 seconds. May partner was so upset that she got drunk and didn’t talk to me all night.
Performances are always video taped. So I still have that video in the basement. It is very helpful to keep me grounded if I ever feel like I am taking off :-) I do a public showing once in a while but charge usually $500 per seat ;-)
B for Battle
Usually the director/choreographer is in charge of all aspects of a dance team. Eventually we wanted more control about music, costumes or even the name of our group. We had a little mutany at our hands.
We decided to move on, manage ourselves and hire an outside choreographer. We named ourselves “Sabor del Mundo” – flavor of the world. Our team members truly were from all over the world.
It is not easy to run your own dance team. It takes a lot of self-discipline. But we had a lot of fun, designed our own costumes and decided on how to put things together.
A for accomplishment
Why were we spending all these countless hours in dance studios? Our big goal was to be admitted to the Los Angeles Salsa Congress as a performing team. Hundreds of teams from around the world applied each year and only 120 were being chosen. You have to submit a video and then wait for the verdict of the big Albert Torres and his team.
Even though we were only in the afternoon program we made it. The performance was actually a lot of fun even though it was a pretty big deal for us. I remember encouraging my partner during the performance and telling her: “Let’s have some fun with this!”.
A lot of effort went into it but that was outweighed by a neat sense of accomplishment.
The simple lesson
Think of how many obstacles I overcame on my journey to learn how to dance. It truly is a showcase for that you can do almost anything if you set your mind to it. I wish I would be that determined with everything else in life. It might also a bit scary if that’d be true. I’d write 150 blog posts a day ;-)
I took a very long hiatus from salsa dancing. But after a 6 year break I am getting back into it. I am now taking things much more easy and don’t try too hard any longer. My performance days or over. I enjoy the smile of my dance partners on the floor and just have a great time.
Let me know if you live in Denver / Boulder and would like to get into salsa dancing.
Don’t abuse your powers
I have seen a girl walking out on a friend of mine once. She said: “You are not dancing with me, you are dancing with yourself”. You might be the better dancer. Don’t use your skills to intimidate your partner but rather make her/him more comfortable.
Guys: Take the lead
Usually the guy is leading and lady has to follow and can focus on looking good out there. It also takes guys about twice as long to learn. A lady with very limited dance experience will look pretty good with a decent partner.
There is such a thing as back-leading when a lady tries to take over but that usually doesn’t turn out to well. Imagine a girl going into a dip because she thinks the guy will catch her. That doesn’t just look bad. It can indeed go very wrong.