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Viva salsa!

Still want to salsa? If so, bring your dancing shoes. Meet me at Green Park stn, end of Piccadilly train. Out of phone credit & battery. Pls call asap.

It was a sizzling hot day. Too hot to trot, I thought. But I had promised to take my new friend dancing. Not knowing what he's like, I wasn't sure if I could cancel last minute and still remain friends. So I sent him an SMS. If he called me immediately, then salsa was on.

Secretly, I wanted to dance. Dancing Queen isn't my nickname by accident but by competition. When I discovered salsa dancing in Cartagena, Colombia, I decided that I'd learn Spanish and salsa at the same time. As soon as I returned to London, I organised salsa dancing classes for my colleagues and myself. I took beginning Spanish twice a week after work. That was seven years ago. And I haven't missed a step.

"Friends of Gordon Beal get two pounds off." That was the lure of tonight's dancing class in Holborn. We stood in lines and warmed up to basic salsa steps. Pretty soon the room was filled to the brim.

Like most dancing classes I've been to, there's always a shortage of women. Tonight we were two or three short. After the warm up, we split into beginners and advanced groups. I joined the advanced group which was taught by a voluptuous African British woman.

I had complained to my friend that few men knew how to lead salsa. In my experience, women teachers are better at teaching men how to lead. My teacher showed my male classmates how to give a firm grip, spreading her right hand wide on the back of her partner. That's the way to do it.

Throughout the rest of the two hour class, I never hesitated to remind each partner to give me a firm grip on my back. Some men were so nervous that I felt I could easily crush their ego if I took the lead. There were no smiles on their faces, only angst and anxiety. The nervous ones broke out in a sweat which gave off the kind of body odour that reminded me why I stopped going to such events. I kept looking at my watch wishing for the end of the class session and the beginning of the free for all part of the evening.

True, I love dancing. But I don't like to dance with anyone. Some men who know how to lead can make me feel like a queen. Others make me feel like a guinea pig. As a woman, I don't need to know how to lead only how to be led.

After dancing with several male classmates both beginner and advanced, I asked the male teachers to show me new moves. One man taught me the difference between Cuban and New York styles. My love of dancing came back. Suddenly time sped up.

Before long, it was the last dance --- a merengue I requested. My new friend led me through the dance he knew better than salsa. As he swung me about, I thought of all those times I had danced like no one was watching.

2 August 2004 Monday

Related links:
Gordon Beal, the temptation of London
Dance like no one's watching
Learn to groove with latin moves
What does SMS stand for? Please contact Anne if you know.
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Anne Ku at Ilp in May 2001
Anne Ku

writes about her travels, conversations, thoughts, events, music, and anything else that is interesting enough to fill a web page.
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