20 September 2006

Salsa Lessons

Needing to maybe get a social life after a year in Vietnam, I decided to try a night spot called “La Havana”. Several months ago I had read that they had Tuesday night salsa lessons. Dance classes are always a good way to meet folks, so a friend and I cruised on over there last Tuesday at 7pm.

La Havana is quite the cute little place that definitely had that south of the border, Spanish décor flavor. You enter into a small front room/bar, then head back to another dining-drinking area, through a small courtyard, and into the back dance hall. Rather small, it was, but since there were only about five people waiting for the class to start, it was doable.

I asked one of the waitresses who the teacher was and she pointed to a short, goateed man walking towards us. I walked over and introduced myself and said we were there for the class. He gave me an exasperated look, thought a minute, than said, “This is the beginning class, but it is not really beginning. This is the sixth class.” He paused, and when I didn’t respond, he continued, giving me a very suspicious glare, “Have you ever done salsa before?” I said that I had. “But what salsa do you do?” Stumped by this question, I sort of shrugged my shoulders and asked what type he did.

“There is New York salsa, Puerto Rican salsa, Cuban salsa.” I asked where he was from. “Spain”. I asked what type of salsa we were supposed to know to be able to participate in week six of the beginner class. He commenced to squiggle around the floor in front of me, demonstrating his brand of salsa. He didn’t say which type it was. He stopped, sighed and asked if I could do that. I said I would be ok. He huffed, turned, and walked away.

I dance to dance. I turn on the music and move. I don’t actually believe that dancing for sheer pleasure is something that needs to be taught, and that as long as you are having fun, who cares what you look like? Apparently our teacher did not have the same life view.

The room soon filled up with about twenty people, mostly young western women, and a few couples. The instructor, who had some weird name I never could decipher, told us to get into lines. The class began, with no music, just him counting 1, 2, 3-4-5, over and over, while doing Salsa Basic; which style, I have no clue. I had it down, and just wished he would turn on the tunes. No such luck. We then preceded to Salsa Basic with a Turn, still in lines, still no musica.

Eventually, he did see fit for us to boogie with rhythms and sound. We partnered up and moved around the floor. El instructor mostly walked around glowering. After half a song, he stopped the music and we went back to the lines, practicing Salsa Basic with Suzie-Que step, and on to Partner Spins.

Exasperated with our apparent lack of finesses, El professor called up a six foot tall gal to help demonstrate. We watched. Then the music started and we got to dance again. Soon, the tall lady walked over and stared at my friend and I for a moment before stopping and saying we were not doing it right. I leaned against the wall until it was my turn to be instructed. Tall lady and I got to one, two, three, four, five, turn – and she abruptly halted. “You are doing it wrong!” she scolded in a strong German accent. “You must spin on 7!” This went on a little longer until I was able to spin as the robot dancer had instructed.

After and hour and a half, we never really go to dance, and definitely never worked up a sweat, which is one of the reasons one takes a dance class. Senor Dancer, who had yet to crack a smile, then gave his End of Beginning Salsa speech, informing us that in the future, we would not be able to pay for only one class, but would have to pay for six at a time. He further noted that although most of the students had been there for all six classes, a good many of them were not ready to go onto Salsa Intermediate, and should repeat beginning. “I am not going to say who. But I know”.

Needless to say, I will not be back. However, I will continue my search for a place to shake my booty, and where there is no one to tell me I am not dancing right.
Uno, dos, tres!