It’s somewhat puzzling to me, that when I tell people I dance salsa, the first response I almost always get is ‘Oh, so do you take part in competitions?’.
And the answer I give is also almost always the same – no, not really – maybe sometimes, but mostly I just dance for fun at socials or parties, or do performances.
I guess that’s the image that salsa dancing seems to portray to the general public here in Singapore. So, I have decided to share a little bit about my own experience with salsa dancing from my last 10 years of doing so.
To me, the main draw of it is the magic of social dancing. This is something that no solo dance can give, although they all do have a magic of their own. But social dancing requires two people (who sometimes have never even met) to create it, together.
This can be said for other partner dances too – Bachata, Zouk, West Coast Swing, Kizomba, Tango and the list goes on. One person initiates the moves they want to do, and the other not knowing in advance what these would be follows, trying to complete these successfully or make them better, complements with styling, or sometimes even shape the flow of the dance.
All this to the beat, tempo, speed and feel of the music. Even when apart and doing shines, there is an immense sense of satisfaction to be had when both dancers hit the music at the same time, have a connection through the shines they do or simply appreciate each other’s shines to the music.
The music especially, is what has kept my passion for this dance alive for so long. I enjoy social dancing all the other partner dances too, but what brings me back to salsa time and time again is the music.
There’s just something about the beats of the clave, timbales and congas, the beautiful melody of the piano and the emotive sounds of the trumpets and the cymbals that gets inside me and makes me feel like moving. Plus the crooning in Spanish is kinda sexy, haha (yes I know this sounds bimbotic, but still).
Feeling the music and hitting the beats of the drums with say a shoulder shimmy or a chest pop or matching a complex piano solo with some nifty footwork, feels absolutely amazing – especially if it’s your favourite song, or even when it’s a song you’ve never heard before (because you’re just so in sync with the beats).
And contrary to popular belief, I actually think that as a dance it has grown so much around the world because of the low barriers to entry. Almost anyone can dance salsa, with some time and practice. You don’t need to be able to do backflips or perfect splits (these are of course useful for performances and competitions, but not particularly for social dancing).
As a result many, many people social dance salsa across the world. Which brings me to my next point.
Another amazing thing about salsa, is that you can incorporate it into your holidays – ever since I started I think around 90% of my trips overseas were either mainly for salsa (with regular sightseeing too during or after) or if for other reasons, usually include a visit to the local salsa club.
I’ve been lucky to have had the chance to social dance in Amsterdam, Berlin, Warsaw, London, Manchester, Nottingham, Athens, Rovinj, Split, Grenoble, Milan, Orlando, New York, New Delhi, Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Sydney and Istanbul – that I can think of right now. Even danced Cuban salsa in a small local bar in Alicante.
Some because I was there to perform, some purely to attend the festival, take workshops, watch the shows and social dance, and some were side trips to salsa clubs while on holiday with the family, boyfriend or friends, or during school (I did start dancing 10 years ago) or work trips.
And so I’ve met people from all around the world, immersed in the different music, dancing styles and cultures. That kind of experience to me, is priceless and immeasurable in quantifiable terms.
Not only abroad, but here at home too, dancing salsa socially gives you the opportunity to meet many people and make friends.
It is a life beyond the usual life at school or the office, being part of a global community of salsa dancers, constantly practicing and also enjoying the improvement of this dance art. As there is always room to grow and more to discover. This is something I find pretty amazing about this dance and really like, because it doesn’t get stale.
In all honesty I believe salsa has changed me a little, but in a good way – I’ve gained more confidence, the ability to strike up a conversation with almost any random stranger (well at salsa parties anyway), and a regular active lifestyle.
And I would like to continue enjoying this ‘extra cirricular activity’ that has ingrained itself as an integral part of my life, for hopefully at least another 10 years to come.
To sum up everything I’ve said in three words – I love Salsa.