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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

My Salsa-Dance Dilemma


For many years, I used to dance the night away at the Caribee Dance Center in Oakland and Boppers Night Club in San Francisco. Women have told me that I have a nice, smooth dancing style. I then reached a point where I would want to be a show off, like those occasions when I'd approach women I don't know, and I'd get varying forms of rejections; some nice, and some not so nice. They seem to assume that a Black man doesn't know what he's doing on the salsa dance floor. I would then go over and grab a woman who knows me, and we would have a good time. It became quite evident to many of these women who rejected me that they made a mistake as they would later give me a nice, big smile and make themselves available to dance with me. Unfortunately, I only ask once! I've even seen these same women watching me dance while dancing with others--SMH..

I was taught the basic steps of salsa by a Puerto Rican girlfriend while attending college in New York. After moving to California, I started taking salsa classes to learn fancy dance patterns at the La Peña Cultural Center in Berkeley. Because of my love for the music, I put in a lot of practice on my own, sometimes getting up early before work and practicing what I learned in the classes. And as I progressed and impressed with my newly acquired dancing skills, I began to notice some disturbing conflicts. There were women with whom  I clicked as well as women with whom I clashed with on the dance floor. The reason for the clashes depended on where they were from.

For example, I've always had trouble dancing with New York Puerto Ricans. There is just something about the style that I could never figure out, but the women from the Island of Puerto Rico turned out to be better dance partners or “followers.” When I was in Perú, where they also love salsa music, I ran into the same problem---style differences, which is different from Puerto Ricans and Cubans. I ran this concern by instructors whom I met with privately, and none had an answer for me. All they would say is that the woman is supposed to follow me, the man. To a point, I found that to be true. When I was in Havana, Cuba, I met women who were so good that they were able to follow and smoothly adapt to my style. I was so flattered when one Cuban woman asked my date if it was OK to dance with me at the famous Palacio de La Salsa in Havana's Hotel Riveria.

Today, I don't go out dancing like I used to. I enjoy all kinds of Latin music nowadays; bachata (Dominican Republic), champeta (Colombia), llanero (Venezuela), and Afro-Peruvian classics, as well as many others that I'm learning about from my travels and explorations into various Latin-American cultures, especially those of African ancestry.

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