Saturday, December 3, 2011

Salsa 'Till you Drop

Part: Follow
Dances: Salsa, Cha-cha
Hovers: 0

Our normal Friday night practice schedule usually involves social dancing at a local dance party, and since the studio we normally go to was closed last night for showcase prep, I thought it might be a good opportunity to check out a new studio just to see what it was like. So I thought a bit and looked around to see who else had a Friday night dance party. It turns out that this studio up in Seattle did, one I've been wanting to check out at some point since I know a number of standard dancers who've come from there. Jeff was a bit hesitant but was game to give it a try. Because of the timing, we figured it best to skip practice so we could still have some time to dance.

So we showed up at the studio about a half hour into the dance party, and there were all of about six people there. We kind of looked at each other; it seemed hardly worth it. The studio was in a really sketchy area, the cover was $12, and as Jeff said when we walked outside, "Do you really want to pay $12 to dance rounds on a small floor?" I didn't particularly, but since we were already out and dressed up, it seemed lame to just go home. So I remembered that Century Ballroom has salsa on Friday nights, and since I'd never been there, why not go check it out? Jeff humored me and off we went.

Century Ballroom is the place everyone in the Seattle area knows about if they've danced at all. I can't say how many times I've been talking to people, and when they find out I dance, they ask if I go or have been to Century for swing or salsa. Nope! For some reason I just never made it out there, probably because I've been so focused on ballroom particularly. So we entered the dance hall, and the bouncer/greeter guy at the door quipped that he'd have to send us packing because we weren't dressed appropriately. Yeah, we kind of dress up a bit to go social dancing and I guess that's not always the norm there. Anyways, the dance was in full swing, and we got out on the floor and started dancing salsa with the rest. Floor crafting here was almost impossible, but Jeff was up to the challenge, as usual. Just keep it small when you have to and move when you have space, and it works. After dancing a couple of dances together, Jeff sat one out and I immediately got asked for the next one, and the next one, and the next one, and the next infinitum. Jeff sat out some, and danced a few with some other girls, and danced with me too, of course, but he paced himself well. My normal policy is that I never refuse a dance unless I have a really good reason, e.g. I don't know the dance at all, the guy is a total creep, I'm hurt, etc. But before long I realized that I couldn't keep it up forever, probably partly because I was dying for water, and they didn't have any available except at the bar.

Strangely enough, that night at least, we seemed to be the most confident dancers on the floor. I know there are some amazing salsa dancers out there who could put many ballroom dancers to shame, but they weren't there that night. Neither Jeff nor I are salsa dancers first by any means, but because of his ballroom training and natural posture and rhythmic movement, Jeff does very well and is always a strong lead. Also, we're quite used to dancing together at this point, so we look more in sync and confident about what we're doing just because of that, I think. I personally think I'm awful at salsa, but I have a pretty good sense of rhythm, a bit of flexibility, and was having a little fun with styling, so I guess that gave the impression that I knew what I was doing. We definitely got a good workout, and Jeff had some fun getting creative with mixing nightclub 2-step moves into the salsa.

As for the other guys I danced with, that was interesting. Quite a variety there. You have a few types. The younger shy type guy, who probably took some dance lessons because he thought it would help him meet some girls and get out more socially (and that it does, by the way!), who dances the moves he learned in class very deliberately, somewhat nervously, but precisely. Then you have the older guy who probably is newly single and decided to take dance lessons to try to get out more and meet people; he tends to think he's pretty good because he's taken lessons, but doesn't quite grasp some of the fundamentals of leading and rhythm and so can be very tough to read. Then the are the older gentleman of some foreign heritage, (there were a few of these), who always seem to really really enjoy dancing with you, sometimes smile at you rather adoringly, and sometimes sing softly to themselves, and have a fairly set routine. Sometimes...luckily not always, they'll get a little too happy about the fact that you're dancing with them, and their hands and eyes will start to make you feel that defensive dancing is in order. Luckily I only danced with one (maybe 2) that was anywhere close to creep #1 for the night, so a little defensive dancing and all was well. Just the fact that I was there with my partner helped a lot in this regard, I believe.

That's definitely not a complete list, but after about three hours of virtually non-stop dancing, I was done. I was super tired and also dehydrated. As we were leaving, we passed a tent encampment of the Occupy Seattle movement, a crazy guy who was riding a bike around and yelling as he went, and various sketch and unique characters who inhabit Seattle's hills on weekend nights. I am glad that we went though, and did have a good time. I just don't think I'll feel the need to go salsa dancing again for a good while. All the same, it was a nice change of pace.

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