Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Hot, Hot, Hot Salsa

No, not edible salsa made so hot it will burn your mouth, throat and digestive track all the way through. 

I am talking about Salsa, the dance. 

In Medellin, Ana-Sofia took three of us to meet her dancing instructor, who then gave us the gift of a full hour of private lesson. Let me start by saying the instructor is a kind, considerate well built, 28 year-old Latin male and I stuffed him into a suitcase to bring him home for for twenty-something daughters but Spirit Airlines wanted to charge too much for the over sized bag and I had to let him out. I have no photos of the dance session so I will describe as best I can. 

Picture this: A large square room, painted white, a wood floor (real wood, not laminate), one solid wall is a mirror. One wall consists of posters of dance events, a doorway leading to the locker area, bathroom and stairs leading down to the exit. The other two walls were windows which let in lots of natural light. Before the lesson we had 20 minutes to watch Andres (our instructor) dance with a partner and another couple as they practiced a synchronized tango routine. Watching their obvious skill panicked me a bit. 

You have to understand: I dance like I have three left feet. (Always exaggerating an overachiever, I insist it feels like I have three feet when I dance). I have no (nadda, none, absolutely zilch) natural rhythm. Have you ever seen the 1980's movie The Jerk? I have less chance of finding a rhythm than the Steve Martin character in that movie. To make matters worse, I have used the same exercise DVD for 6 years and when I stand and have to follow a beat (just another word for rhythm) my body immediately falls into the moves I use with the DVD. I had recently taken one dance lesson with my husband on ballroom dancing and it was traumatic. I could not get it - and I desperately wanted to be able to dance. Based on what I know about myself and that lesson a month ago in which I exhibited spastic futility, I felt sure this lesson was not going to help me or change my life in any meaningful way. Oh my, was I wrong. 

Not me, but moves like
me dancing
The lesson started as I expected. I could not time the beat. There was a count of eight. I could not get it. The other two people in my group were getting it. I was fighting back frustration and embarrassment tears. I was ready to quit and let the other two people enjoy the lesson. Ana-Sofia translated for Andres, who speaks only Spanish, as he explained that the beat is an 8 count but we only need to count one-two-three and five-six-seven. I do not know why, but that made sense to me. It was the count I heard in my head. I could do that. I got that. I still do not know how that works but I can do it so I am not going to question it. 

Of course there is more to dancing then keeping the beat. Now I had the rhythm but my step was too heavy and wide. My body bends like it does for exercise or the way it did when I walked as a 385 pound person. Andres, who had worked with Ana-Sofia as she lost her excess pounds, understood what my body was doing and that I did not realize I was still moving like Horton-takes-a-walk.

Not my instructor,
not his studio, not me
He got me to straighten my back, relax my hips and shorten my steps. Then Andres took my hand and started counting to me in English. One-two-three, five-six-seven. One-two-three, five-six-seven. . . . he stopped me from looking at my feet as I counted and insisted that instead, I keep my eyes on him and hold my chin up as I moved. Any time my eyes dropped his hand was under my chin, raising my face back up. His finger tips and palms guided my body into the Salsa dance moves. His eyes and fingers, somehow, conveyed to me what the next move would be and guided me through each movement. 

Before I knew it (and to my everlasting astonishment) I was dancing a real Salsa, moving, gesturing, and most importantly - enjoying it. I suddenly felt and saw the difference between the way I lumber around walk and move like I am still 385 pounds and the way I can learn to move today at 168 pounds. 

Not me, not yet. . . . . 
What a blessing! I knew when I started keeping the pounds off I could learn to eat right and to act right but when I started this journey, I did not realize I would also need to re-learn how to walk right in order to carry myself as a woman in a normal-sized body. It took a trip to Colombia and a dance instructor, who does not speak English, teaching me the salsa to show me that this journey continues in many forms and that effort and practice, while not making perfect,  will make better.

Next Time: The photo that had me balling like a baby at 30,000 feet.



Fatoutofskinny said...

I can't even imagine how exhilarating that must have been!

Unknown said...

I love this post. This was a personal exploration of who you are. I love having those kinds of personal revelations.

:-) Marion

Unknown said...

Hi Jane! Love you right back! But I have to tell you that *your* lovely post--this one right here--was part of the inspiration for this post. In your post, you were describing how you began dancing on your vacation as though you were "fat," and found out that the reality was not how your mind first perceived.

Is this the reason why you didn't dance much earlier than 2011? Do you think you're more capable of dancing than you previously thought you were?

Also, I would point out that you actually did go exercise, though uninspired, which does not sound too lazy to me.

:-) Marion

Satu said...

I love your post, Jane! (found you through Marion).

Ah, I think you just found a very good dance instructor. A good one is worth every penny. :-)

One of my long-term goals is to learn to dance salsa and be able to do that for hours when I turn 50. I'haven't really gotten started yet, but I have time (I'm 43) and am working on my other goals at the moment.

Jane Cartelli said...

I suspected that. ;-) LOL

It does not sound lazy to me either. Perhaps lazy is really uninspired. I have to want to do it or I use lazy. You are right.

I think I will post that on your blog, too.


Jane Cartelli said...

Satu -
Good luck with ALL your goals! Come visit again.


that TOPS lady said...

aawww....I love this post!