It was girl’s night out with some of my favorite chicas. After overindulging at one of our local Italian food joints, we decided to try our luck at a local salsa club. Imagine 6 women crammed into my little Nissan Altima debating on where or if we should go, zipping around Portland. We arrive at Andrea’s Cha Cha Club on Grande. Shawna, always smiley and optimistic, decided to do a “re-con mission” and scope it out. In the meantime, Christine was sitting next to me in the car debating as to why this wasn’t such a good idea. I said, “you’re acting old…let’s try something new…it will be great!” Text message interrupts from Shawna that reads, “Girl…get in here, this place is ROCKIN’!” I’m all in..the rest of the group is undecided, but I eventually win (hee,hee) and out the car door and into the club we roll.
It’s an unusual place…the top floor is a hip hop club and bar. It’s a mixed bag of music, people, decor, and energy. You round the corner and make your way down a long staircase. Just below lies an underground club…in the basement. It’s dark, gritty, loud, latino and absolutely “fantastic0″! I’ve never technically been salsa dancing before, but I was game to give it a try. Before we could even get into the room we were are all wisked up by Latino goodness. These men want to dance and we were new Americana blood.
My guy is named Solo Vino (Only Wine). He’s about 300lbs of absolute Mexican shake & shimmy! I’m whirling, spinning in circles…my hair flying across the floor as he dips and spins me around. I have no clue what I’m doing but somehow I’m transformed into the “goddess of dance”. I scan the room for the group…each one with a different latino partner and everyone smiling and having fun! I look at Mr. Vino who has a grin from ear to ear. We try to speak “spanglish” to each other but I am at loss for words (I know it’s hard to believe but really…I was out of breath). I can’t help but smile…in fact, I smile so much that my mouth dries out and my upper lip curls under above my top teeth so I have to lick them to get it down. ”It’s a 10, 10, 10!”
That was it. After each song, you’d switch partners. I’d tell the girls to try “my guy” and we’d compare notes afterwards! We danced for over an hour… but babysitters, morning plans, and other commitments called our time too short. At that moment I knew I was in trouble. If I love something…I do whatever it takes to make it happen, to learn it, to be good at it, and to incorporate it into my life as much as I can. I couldn’t even wait until the following weekend…Holly and I hit the Conga Club that Wednesday where I think I got worse, but we made a deal to come back on a Saturday for the free lesson.
Saturday sealed the deal. We hit the Conga Club at 8:30pm. By 9:15pm the instructors strolled in. You knew who all the Gringos were because we were all on time! LOL! Even me! I didn’t want to miss it…not one second. So there was my first real salsa class. You lined up…the girls on one side and the boys on the other. Then you’d partner with the person across from you. Don’t get too cozy because in just a few minutes, you’d switch partners. I loved that one second I was dancing with Jim, an American 75yr. old retired teacher, and the next minute I was dancing with Antonio, a 22yr. old Mexican construction worker. Salsa is amazing because you can touch people, get to know them in a way that is respectful but not always sexual. Don’t get me wrong…salsa can be a very sensual dance as well as the other latino styles (meringue rocks my world) if you want them to be, but it is such a different feel and experience from going to a regular club where some drunk guy is humping your leg leaving you feeling dirty. It’s respectful and wonderful! I love the cultural parts of the dance. The guys all ask you to dance and then they walk you back to your seat at the end of each song. They are polite and use manners. It’s a great way to introduce positive connections with the opposite sex without over stepping the boundaries.
After the lesson…I just started dancing! I was asked to dance almost every song. The live band played on until 2:30am and there I was…still dancing, barely able to stand. I had been dancing for 6hrs.! Wowwwwww Mama! That was the beginning of my salsa addiction! I met a good group that night who keep me in the loop for the best places to go. I also met Ramon…my little Mexican goodness. He is my dance partner, the hardest worker I know, the very best dancer & teacher, and one of my best friends. Every time we are together it’s a “10″! I’d say, “good things come in small packages”!
I AM NOW ADDICTED TO SALSA!
I was worried that not going somewhere this summer would prove to be boring. I wanted to jet set to Europe, or go backpacking in South America. There was a variety of reasons why I didn’t go… but, now I’m so glad I stayed. I got to experience different cultures, find a new passion, lost 10lbs., and have a myriad of stories to share! I’m as happy as can be getting “my salsa on!” I even took the kids to a salsa concert and class! Soooo, even if you don’t think you have a coordinated bone in your body….even if you’ve never given dancing a try, just GO! Give salsa a whirl and see how it can change your life! If your married or have a special someone…take them along too! It’s a great way to exercise and to re-connect with one another. Men have to learn to lead, and women have to learn to follow…it’s about trust and love! As Ramon says in his wonderful Spanglish, “Mamita linda, love…tu corizon, tu heart baby, is just walking along side a person and going in the same direction!” So get your “love on” and learn some salsa!