Tuesday, September 22, 2009


I was convinced by our experience at the wedding that we must learn to dance, not only to salsa and merengue and tango, but also to feel the music and not think about the steps but to let our bodies move. I was disappointed in myself; I watched the wedding guests dance nonstop for five hours ( which most likely continued for several hours after we left), wanting to join in, but was too timid and self-conscious (and acutely aware of Eric's discomfort) to participate. I had my second salsa lesson today. I tried to call Eric and have him participate, but was unsuccessful in my efforts (or perhaps he was avoiding me so as not to have to dance for an hour in the middle of the day).

Our teacher last week had us all learning the steps and moving very quickly. We had the chance to dance with a partner as well. This week, a different teacher moved more slowly, but it was reassuring for me because I could remember the steps and was able to hear the beat and stick with the movements. I felt more confident at the end of the lesson and even more eager to return with Eric and learn more steps and try them out with a partner.

I had a second dance lesson at the gym in the basement of our apartment building, but this was an entirely different experience. It was ostensibly an exercise class with dance being the means of achieving some aerobic intensity. All the steps were familiar. What was astonishingly different was the way the teacher moved. Her head and shoulders were relatively still, but her hips were moving constantly, sideways, forwards, in rotation, up and down, all while her legs were moving independently and her arms danced a different pattern. It was stunning to watch, and impossible to mimic. I was happy to get the movement of the feet, the pattern of which was constantly changing, but whenever I tried to add a slight measure of hip movement, I would lose my feet, and the same would happen if I tried to move my arms sinuously. Trying to put all components together was amusing, and I found myself laughing at myself over and over again. I was in awe of this woman and the way she moved her body. I wanted desperately to move like her. I wonder if that is entirely impossible, that there is something different about her genetic makeup, her heritage, her life experience, that enables her to move the way she does.

There is no doubt that people from South and Central America love to dance, dance more, and generally dance better than their northern neighbours. Ecuador is no exception. Whether it is simply a new skill that I must learn (and Eric with me!) or a sense of the music or the rhythm that is teachable, or whether I must learn to feel the music differently or sell a small part of my soul to feel it, I am determined to dance, and dance well.

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