(Or How To Get Your Man to Give in to His Inner Salsa Soul!)

SALSA Top Tips from Artist Judith Dawson

Here I am at last writing about my salsa experience. I am a salsa virgin; well, that’s not strictly true – I had dabbled a little before; two years before to be precise. After a long period of gentle persuasion (actually it was without doubt nagging and scheming…), I managed to drag my long-suffering husband Ian along to a class. However, would you believe it! After only two weeks by dancing shoes were thrown to the back of the wardrobe (literally!). To Ian’s delight our dance teacher decided most inconveniently to go off to Australia for the summer. How could he! Did he not know the pains I had gone to to get there? Obviously, not. So that was it for the time being. Of course in the meantime I knew my dear friend Chris was gaining experience in her salsa dancing and after enduring, whoops, I mean listening…to her salsa stories and reading her delectable write ups on her new website I just had to get there, somehow….someday……

How did I manage it? Did I get Ian there? I hear you asking. Well, it took a few family tragedies and some more…well…gentle persuasion! I needed to get away from it all, I said, and Salsa would take my mind off it all. It would be great exercise, too I said and…..there’s a fantastic bar just opened up along the road from the salsa venue, we can call in afterwards, or before if you need to, and have a few drinks!!!! That was it! Clinched it!


Judith and Ian - Salsa Top TipsSo, two years after my first dabble, off we went to our first official class in the historic City of Durham. The venue was in a large modern ballroom in the Gala Theatre. It had a “sprung wooden dance floor” – this went straight over my head, but I expect the more experienced salsa dancers amongst you may well be impressed? The most impressive thing of all, though, was the bar. Why it didn’t have a sign above it saying “Dutch Courage”, I do not know, but the gin and tonics worked a treat. We paid our five pounds then took a seat at the edge of the dance floor, gingerly eying up the competition. To my surprise there was quite a lot of men and women of all ages, which was very encouraging. Within no time at all, our teacher Peter (not very exotic, I know, but he’s a fellow northerner and salsa enthusiast) – clapped his hands and asked us all to form two rows in front of him. “Wa hay*, we’re off”, I thought.
*northern English term meaning, ok chaps, lets go…


Peter was very concise in his instruction, and he took us through the basic steps without music. Once we had mastered them, he told us to form a huge circle and find a partner. Ian came across looking quite nervous, but once the music started he couldn’t keep still. Now, this has always amazed me. I’ve been married to Ian for 18 years now and I’d say we’re pretty compatible but put us together on a dance floor and we are total opposites! If you had to choose your life partner on dancing ability Ian and I would have ran as fast as possible in the opposite direction of each other. Within no time at all we were niggling at each other. I was, he said, holding him too tightly and trying to lead. He, I said, was too sloppy and not showing me which direction to go in. As if by magic, peter stopped everyone and told us to move onto the next partner. Some of us who had come in couples looked surprisingly forlorn. “Believe me”, he said wisely, “You’ll be pleased to be moving on as it saves all the arguments between couples.” Had he done this before…..I moved onto my first new male salsa partner. Would he be a better lead, I wondered, and me a virgin (!) myself… I looked at him, smiled and grabbed his hand firmly, one to three and four and five and six and seven. I was concentrating so hard that before I knew it, it was time to move on again and again. The styles of dancing were many and varied. Ranging from a guy in his twenties who danced with real flair, just like Lionel Blair! To a guy in his 60’s (and I’m being generous) who towered above me and was so hot and sweaty that I thought I was going to slide out of his clasp and fall to a heap on the floor! For some reason the air conditioning had let us down and there were a lot of hot, sticky bodies around – yuck! I tried as discreetly as possible – between partners of course – to wipe my hands on my trousers….

By the end of the session I was quite exhausted, not only from the dancing, but from all that concentration – wow! It had been quite exhilarating. I made my way towards Ian. “Well, what did you think?” I asked, beaming at him. “Actually, I really enjoyed it,” he replied, to my utter amazement! “Come on, let’s go to the pub,” I said. We made our way to the door and the teacher’s assistant ran after us. “Oh, you’re not going now, are you?” she said, grabbing my arm. “You’ve done so well, you may as well stay for the improver’s class.”

I looked at Ian. Could he endure another class? He shrugged his shoulders and we were off again, dancing for another hour. Magic…

Now, click your heels together and repeat after me, “There’s no dance like salsa…..there’s no dance like salsa……”

Copyright Judith Dawson ©2006. Written specifically for Christine Penhall’s website.
Judith Dawson is a successful painter and her art can be seen on www.judeart.co.uk. Judith and her husband Ian are agents for property-buying in the Algarve. Information can be found on www.letsbuy-algarve.com