Why oh why do I put myself through this? This evening we went salsa dancing in Mons, in a small, smart studio above one of the bars on the Grand Place. I've only ever done salsa dancing once before, about 9 years ago, and I was hopeless at it. It's the hips thing. Comes far more naturally to women. Having said that, since then I've done Tango and Le Roc (Jive), and once I get going, I'm not too bad on the ol' dancefloor. Not a complete embarrassment at any rate.
This really was what you'd call blindly immersing yourself in another country. Although, it's such a visual thing and not understanding all the instructions isn't such a hindrance. There were about 8 couples in the class. Unusually, we stayed with the same partner the whole lesson. Normally, this would bother me a little as I believe you learn far more when dancing with a whole range of people, but on this occasion, for my first class, I was slightly relieved. At least I wouldn't have to bore everyone by repeating the 'sorry, but I'm a complete beginner, and I really don't speak much French so there's no point you talking to me,' mantra.
The class was led by a glamorous, slim woman and her, shall we say, rather portly, short, camp, male dance partner. We introduced ourselves at the start and they told us not to worry about not understanding everything. In fact, they were both very encouraging and extremely friendly, always making sure we were following everything okay. And also devoting a large amount of time to showing us specifically where we (I) were going wrong. The male teacher, let's call him Marco, would shout out the intructions in a mixture of English, French and Spanish. Luckily, the latter was only really done when counting. There were several occasions when I only understood a fraction of what he was saying. I'll blame the loud salsa music for that. The most imporant words for the routine were simply: "poussez, tirez, bloquez." I'm not sure the last is really a French word. They certainly pepper their French with a lot of Englishisms do the Belgians.
It took me ages to master the 'basic steps,' but I definitely got the hang of it by the end. I actually found the whole experience hilarious, and nerve-wracking, at the same time. Must have sweated about a pint before we even got started. I'm glad we did it though. We had found ourselves a really good jive class in Bristol and it was a shame to have stopped dancing for so long. Good for the health is dancing, so they say.
I think for me, I'd compare dancing to eating fish. Initially, I never really want to do it, but I know I should, and once I have, I usually feel a lot better, healthier and pleased with myself and wonder what all the fuss was about.
Everyone left the class by kissing both teachers and I thought I should follow suit. I've definitely got the hang of this kissing for hellos and goodbyes malarky.