I just returned from a three-week vacation in Central America, which included stops in sunny Belize, Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala. While in Mexico, I did something I have not done in years: tried salsa dancing. I learned the basics of salsa dancing when I was in college and I have taken a few newbie salsa classes over the past few years, but I was not a salsa expert by any means when I first arrived in Mexico. While there, I went out with friends to a popular nightclub, which was packed with people dancing salsa and merengue.
Many of the other dancers in the club danced like professionals, with all of the quickfire twirling and spinning that comes along with salsa dancing. Being the beginner dancer that I am, I logically kept my distance and observed the dance floor from the sidelines. I would have watched the dancers the entire night if a man had not extended a hand to me and asked me to dance. As I tried my best to keep up with his movements, he attempted start a conversation with me in Spanish, which did not last long (my Spanish is crap). After a few minutes of dancing, he must have figured that our conversation was not going anywhere because he abruptly stopped dancing to bring over one of his friends who spoke English. His friend, a tall man with a strong build who was wearing a crisp white t-shirt, immediately walked over and took my hand. As we danced merengue, the new man told me that he once lived in Chicago and Miami, and that he came to the U.S. occasionally to earn money.
The new man was an excellent dancer, who was very patient with my fumbling and knee-knocking on the dance floor. He was an excellent teacher because he was willing to dance slowly with me, showing me new turns and spins, and telling me to stand up straight. Best of all, I felt comfortable letting him take the lead by showing me how to dance with the beat and spin in unison with him. To be honest, dancing with him made me feel like a girl. For the first time in weeks, I actually felt feminine and sexy. We danced the rest of the night, right up until the bar closed. I had the time of my life, and I knew then that I would have to make salsa dancing a part of my regular routine.
As I danced that night, I learned a lot about myself and my dancing abilities, but there were a few major takeaways:
Salsa is very masculine because the man leads.
In salsa, it is up to the man to lead and create room for the woman to move her body. With a gentle nudge, the man decides the next move or turn, and it is the woman’s responsibility to surrender and follow his lead. As I was dancing, I thought of salsa dancing as a type of “femininity training.” Sometimes it may be difficult for women to fall back and let the man take the lead, but it is rewarding in the end to be with a man who feels in charge. That night, I learned dance moves I have never tried before, and it was all possible because I decided to let the man take the lead.
You dance together in a partnership.
As we salsa danced, I could feel the value of the partnership. Similar to being in a romantic relationship, salsa dancing makes you feel as though you are moving in an orbit that is bigger than yourself. Together, we moved in a rhythm that was unique to all of the other dancers in the room, and it felt amazing.
The spontaneity is magic.
While you are dancing salsa, you do not know which move your partner wants to do next, and the mystery of it all is incredible. You are relying on your partner to feel the beat and the movement and decide which turn or step should come next.
Bonus: How to be a good salsa dancing partner.
Here is a set of tips (10 Things to Avoid on the Dance Floor) from Joel Salsa, which is based in New York City.
Which type of dancing is your favorite? Are there other dances are more feminine? Share below!