I confess that I’m not a naturally or comfortably enthusiastic dancer – unless it’s a Christmas party or wedding reception in which case it’s hard to get me to stop. And for the safety and wellbeing of fellow guests it is important that I do! So for me a one day salsa course was going to be an experience fraught with disastrous possibilities.
I approached with trepidation, but just maybe it would unlock a hitherto dormant talent…
It is never too late to learn
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I plunged in with both feet – hoping they didn’t both belong to the left side – and signed up for ‘Salsa Rapido One Day Intensive Course’ at Bar Salsa, 96 Charing Cross Rd, London.
Ironically the only word in that title which didn’t worry me was Salsa. ‘One Day’ suggested a daunting and epic duration, ‘Intensive’ hinted at highly concentrated and rather serious, whilst ‘Rapido’ conjured images of blurring footwork and frantic tuition.
None of these concerns were allayed by the reason I was there in the first place . My friend, and WatchFit Expert Contributor, Ina Gutowska had invited me as her partner.
Her protestation that she’d never done salsa and therefore “I’ll be just like you”, did not convince. Maybe she hadn’t done salsa but this personal trainer and gymnast was formally trained in ballet to hip hop. How on earth was she going to be ‘just like me’?
Partners are encouraged to keep numbers even. In dancing terms you’ll see no more of your partner than anyone else as the class constantly rotates and you move from partner to partner. Unquestionably a great way of meeting new people.
The whole thing is led by Alastair Sadler who does an outstanding job of relaxing the room, emphasising what lay ahead of us was not the North Face of the Eiger, but a fun day and genuinely attainable skill.
Starting with the basics
We were introduced to the basic right, left, right / left, right, left step which was the foundation for all that followed. That I could do and by lunch I felt pretty good about things.
This was not a competitive environment but, as we sat down for refreshments, I couldn’t help but make an analytical appraisal of my performance throughout the morning and, with all due modesty, graded myself in the top third.
In fact, by my reckoning, Ina was not so far ahead of me. Maybe she was right after all and her previous dance training was barely an advantage over my natural physical musicality and shining ability to absorb and execute instruction?
But the complex part
But pride comes before a fall. Post lunch it was a very different story. I don’t know what did it. Maybe my body was confused by taking on a meal devoid of beer and/or wine immediately before heading for a dance floor. Whatever the reason, for the early afternoon session I had the concentration of a blunt force trauma head injury victim. Bottom of the class for me!
Problems stemmed from a move so simple a newly walking infant could have given it reasonable shot. Sometimes we fall over the smallest obstacle and my bette noir was the Cross Body Lead. Look it up on youtube, you’ll see that very little needs to happen at all, yet this fundamentally co-ordinated and sporty person, with some reasonable music training, could no more do it than break the pole vault world record. Inexplicably more complex moves were picked up without much trouble later on.
Alastair makes a difficult job look easy. He instructs for over five hours yet always remains interesting, informative and amusing. The fact he has a passion for writing and performing comedy came as no surprise. He has a ready wit which is regularly deployed throughout to day to great effect, only occasionally lapsing into end-of-pier cheese and groan-worthiness. There was much jocularity but never at the expense of clear and concise instruction.
By the end, courtesy of my ‘cross body crisis’, I graded myself firmly in the middle of the pack and was perfectly satisfied with that. And as for Ina – Top of the class. Quality always rises!
The day goes by quickly, is manageable for all fitness levels and certainly sends you away with a greater Salsa pedigree.
Full details at www.streetbeat.co.uk.
Read more from Expert Guy Holland