My Salsa Journey

Jacqueline Buchanan

Author: Jacqueline Buchanan

When I was much younger there were three things I longed to do. Play the piano, so people would sing and dance along. Speak a foreign language, fluently and dance like ‘baby’ from the movie ‘Dirty Dancing’. At the age of 54, I could play Chopsticks and Jingle Bells, speak Spanglish and schoolgirl French and dance like your embarrassing relative at a cousins wedding!

I drive past VK dance studio every day and one day I stopped in, picked up a schedule and attended the only class that had a schedule I liked. 7-8pm on a Monday and Wednesday….Salsa?

I had no idea what Salsa actually was…but I’d watched Dancing with the Stars…how hard could it be?

Well for an extremely white English person it’s like learning to speak Mandarin whilst playing classical music on a baby grand piano!

I had no rhythm and no understanding of the beat but I’d paid for 10 lessons so I was jolly well going to take them…then I’d leave.

But I didn’t leave. I was fascinated to watch competent dancers so effortlessly moving to the rhythm….I really wanted to be able to emulate their grace and fluidity.

So how do you get there?

Well, As a beginner your aim is to be able to do it ….now! We are impatient and live in a world of see it, want it, take it. Most of us want to dance to ‘impress’, the wow factor. I was no different. Mastering the basic step of Salsa on 2 is essential and many people give up at that point. Persevere, for once that’s achieved you have a foundation to build on. And essentially that’s what you do little by little, week by week, you build your dance.

As a novice it is easy to be overwhelmed with it all but if you focus on one small piece and practice for 2 minutes a day it will pay dividends.

You learn to hear the music, feel the rhythm, relax sufficiently to be led, turn on a dime and not wobble, turn five times in the same direction and not get dizzy, try and look graceful in ugly shoes and not panic when someone you don’t know asks you to dance!

You’ll know when you do it right and hit that ‘sweet spot’ even if only for a second…it is a wonderful feeling. If you got it right once you can do it again and eventually it becomes the norm and you move one step forward.

I have met some very cool people not least amongst them my dance teacher, Hervin Alvarez. Hervin brings to his students a love for his art that translates through his classes….you don’t need talent just enthusiasm and a desire to learn. Like all good teachers, he shares his skill and knowledge with an abundance of patience and humor.

Beginners, intermediates, performances and socials, he is our lynch pin..

Whoever said “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey”, was so right. I am now 56 and learning Salsa on 2 is a journey I hope to travel till I’m really old!

And maybe, just maybe my dream of dancing like ‘baby’ from ‘Dirty Dancing’ is not so far fetched after all…..any Patrick Swayzes out there?