backpost: adventures in salsa

This post was originally published in May 2009 on lemonlove.forgedpixels.com

My sister has been going salsa dancing with her friends every other week for about two months now, and last night was the first time she managed to convince me to tag along! In my defense, it starts late, and I normally work early (gah, being responsible) so I have an easy out/ an excuse to sleep instead of dance furiously with latin men.

There was a live Cuban band last night, and she talked my friend Lizzy and I into going! We got to the Mambo Lounge (in downtown Portland) around 9:45, when the lesson started. Gah, you’d think my experiences two years ago of swing dancing would help… but it didn’t! For the first 3 hours of dancing I felt so uncoordinated! It was pretty much terrible, compounded by watching tall, attractive men dip and swing my older sister all around the dance floor!

Lizzy and I were pretty much ready to leave in dispair of ever getting the hang of this crazy salsa dancing, when the clock struck midnight and all of the nice, non-professional latin dudes came to dance.

The band is so loud that any language barrier is only compounded. You’re shouting in your partner’s ear just to tell them that you’re having fun, or that tonight is your first time at the club! I met many nice men, who were all very good dancers and I’m pretty sure I stepped on their feet. I danced with Christian, whose name I at first thought was, “Ignacio”, who responded smoothly, “You can call me Ignacio any time you like!”. He invited me to take lessons with him, claiming that he needed a partner for the beginning salsa lessons offered on Tuesday nights! I had to turn him down, as my sister and I had determined earlier that all of the lessons are offered on nights when I’m working! Sadface. I’d still like to learn, dancing is so much fun!

Oh, but the night wasn’t over. My Prince Charming! He was there. Here, I’ll set the scene:

Me.
Sweating and tired, fumbling for a water-bottle. My hair is half sliding out of my pigtails (Yes, I wore pigtails salsa dancing–they were cute and unique but they also made me feel like I was seven!) and I have mascara running down my cheek. I’m limping slightly after having my achilles heel be stomped on by my OLDER SISTER (who was being spun around like a top by one of the instructors) I descend the staircase in slow motion (tripping slightly on someone’s jacket, a chair, someone else’s shoe, and knocking over somebody’s beer bottle in the process)…

Him.
Plastered with sweat, overweight, at least 40. His shirt was open to his navel exposing his, ahem, ridiculously manly chesthair and his Burt Reynolds mustache called to me from across the room, our eyes met as the toe of my shoe caught on the wooden dance floor and I tripped into his arms. And we danced the night away.

To be totally honest, I didn’t really get the salsa dancing until this partner (And no, I honestly don’t know his name–we never spoke!) previously I was tripping, bouncing like a penguin (Literally: one partner instructed me to do this!) smacking my partners in the face while dancing… etc. With my new partner (we’ll call him Rudolfo) I had it down. If we weren’t salsa dancing, this would have been the moment the band would have started playing a cover of “Dancing Queen” by ABBA. They were Cuban though, so they played a different song, that involved yelling and raising your arms a lot? Also Rudolfo decided that during This Song, he was going to Dip Me. A lot.

And then dance verrrrry closely for 16 counts.

A very. Long. 16 counts.

It’s one of those moments where you’re pressed against a very wet complete stranger and you wonder, “Am I okay with this?” “Is he hitting on me?” “Should I just go with it?” and you really don’t have time to think because 4,5,6 aaannnnd DIP! and then he put his hands on my waist and I was confused all over again.

I finally settled on a combination of going with it and pushing him away before the 16 (or 24, or 35, whatever he felt like) counts were over, which I’m sure wasn’t confusing to him in the slightest. He contented himself on singing to me (“Besa-me mama! Besa-me mucho!”) along with the song (Don’t worry, I am in Spanish 2! I know what those words mean.) and then dipping me again. And then spinning me. For FIVE MINUTES. And dipping me. AND THEN SPINNING. AND THEN DIPPING AGAIN. AND THEN SPINNING. AND THEN SPINNING, AND THEN DIPPING, AND THEN DANCING TOO CLOSE AND SPINNING ME AGAIN.

Did I mention that of course we were dancing to the song where they introduce all of the players? So the song was like, um, upwards of 25 minutes long?

YEAH.

Finally, FINALLY, the song ended, we clapped and hugged. He said “Thank you” (which were the only words we exchanged the ENTIRE EVENING) and planted a kiss on my cheek. I escaped to our seats, swigged down my bottle of water, and laughed with Lizzy. (“I JUST GOT KISSED. HIS SHIRT WAS OPEN TO HIS BELLY-BUTTON.”) when there was a tap on my shoulder and Rudolfo was back.

Rudolfo. Wasn’t. Done.

I’m pretty sure by the end of our second dance I was a considerably less exciting partner to dance with. Not only had I figured out his rhythm (and also His Game), I was also out of steam and ready for, um, a rest? Or like, some more water? Or like, TO STOP SPINNING EVERY TWO COUNTS. I will say, it was a relief to finally dance with someone who led his partner with clues, so I knew what was going on, and who stayed on the general beat, and it was completely and very fun, even though… dancing too closely… dancing too closely…

I’m lucky that I’m one of those people who can just go with it, and isn’t completely freaked out by being touched/danced with by a complete stranger, but that was a stretch, even for Brittney.

We left the Mambo shortly after my last dance with Rudolfo. I was disappointed that I didn’t get to dance with Antonio Banderas (No, seriously, he looked JUST LIKE HIM, only with lots of gold chains, more hair gel and snakeskin boots!) but all three of us were ready for a break, more water, and a chance to sit where the speakers weren’t making your hair vibrate.

So, salsa dancing review: Super fun! I’ll definetly go again, and next time will be prepared for it to be lame until the clock strikes medianoche.

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