Once upon a time, there was a small lady with two left feet, but a fantastic sense of rhythm. She had spent many hours dancing around her handbag in the “freeform” fashion popular at the time. But it was not enough for her. There was something missing; everything, in actual fact – good music, fun, a sense of purpose, and something nice to look at (as handbags are only interesting for a very short time, no matter how bright and sparkly they are).
But one day something wonderful happened: an advert in a local free paper for salsa dancing (handbags optional) was thrust through her door, and once she saw it she could not forget it. It kept calling to her: I have spicy sexy rhythms, warm and vibrant musical notes, quite difficult steps; I have fun!!!!!
The small lady resisted, however, because although she was bored and her dancing life was a dark, empty pit of nothingness (and she had run out of money to buy handbags), this salsa dancing was something new, and was therefore a little frightening.
But one dark evening, after a futile and frustrating handbag shopping outing, she walked past a dimly lit doorway, from where some new and exciting tunes bounced into the street. She paused briefly outside and saw the sign: Salsa Dancing Classes – Come In – We Are Lovely! And as she stood, a warm pair of musical arms swept her up and carried her through the doorway; they pulled her from the cold night into a warm, sunny room full of bright lights and smiley faces.
And lo, the advert was right: the salsa class had all of those things it claimed, and more. The lady learnt the difficult steps, she learned how to wiggle her bottom, then she learned how to wiggle her top, then she learned not to do them both at the same time, as it was quite unsettling she learned how to put her handbag under a chair in the corner and learned to dance round men instead. Her life changed forever and for the better. And now she’s quite good.
Food for the Soul
When I took my first salsa lesson, I never dreamed it would become such a big part of my life. But I found it, or it found me, at a time when I needed to escape – in 2000 I was newly alone, suddenly a single parent, feeling the weight of such huge and sudden overwhelming responsibilities. I needed fun, a focus, a release, a place to go to meet people – and salsa gave me all of those things and more.
When I’m dancing you can see the real me – the me I keep hidden every day – the childlike, joyful, exhuberant me, who just feels the music and loves the dance. I leave the me who has a leaky roof, has to sort out the broken window, feed the children, work, iron, pay the bills… and let myself live in the moment, just for a couple of hours when the sun goes down.
And I think that’s the same for all of us – isn’t it?
The Salsa Diaries are about Salsa, obviously, but they are also about people, friendship, fun and laughter.
And Billy Elliot was right: sometimes it does feel like flying!
More from my Salsa Diaries
Story and photos by Chris Penhall, graphics by Sue Lees, clothes by Nikki Parkerread more
When other salsa-holics go on holiday they seek out salsa clubs to feed their habit. But, no, not me – I disappear off into an alternate holiday universeread more
Lots of other salsa related articlesread more
Given that you’re on your way to an evening out for some dance “therapy”, it seems a good idea not to get yourself wound up with all the stresses and strains of driving yourself. Why not get someone else to do the hard work for you – you’re thinking stretch limo, pleasant taxi ride….very sensibleread more
I cannot imagine a life without music, without listening to it, singing it, dancing to it, or it just being there in the background. It would no doubt go on in my head, anyway, but that’s probably unhealthy, long term.read more
Do you ever feel that you are in the middle of a sitcom and no-one’s told you – a sort of Salsa equivalent of The Truman Show? Do you, at all? Or is it just me……..read more
Music sets all of us off in different ways, we love things for different reasons, and sometimes we cant quite work out why or how….but if a few different notes and instruments makes us feel something, there must be something in the way a certain track is put together which touches us beyond thought.read more
It is a part of salsa that despite the very best teaching over the past few years makes my eyes glaze over in panic and all my sense of rhythm and timing run for the door. But I know now that it is a recognised condition.read more
IT’S January, it’s grey, it’s cold, it’s S.A.D., and we take up a little more space than we did in November; what to do?read more
As someone once said, a Salsa Congress is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you gonna get…well you do, but at one and the same time, you don’t. If you see what I mean.read more
During daylight, salsa divas merge themselves into the population at large, dressing sometimes normally, with only an occasional smattering of sequins, or a floaty sleeve visible to the naked eye.read more
Little did I know when I hesitantly walked through those Salsa doors for the first time that I was at the beginning of what has become a serious addiction…read more
Are Salsa and rugby the same???read more
Salsa Top Tips
The effects of dancing on your fitness are far more beneficial than you could ever imagine.read more
(Or How To Get Your Man to Give in to His Inner Salsa Soul!)read more
…and how to be lead!read more
I have a belief that if you are committed to learning anything at all in life – that is absolutely anything – and you are willing to meet all the challenges head on and not succumb to despair and discouragement, then you will always reach your goal.read more
What to Wear (and not!)read more