I bet every girl who has seen Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights has indulged in hours-long fantasies about passionate salsa dancing and, of course, finding true love, as these two always seem to go together. This would apply to me as well; learning how to dance salsa has been a dream of mine since I was 12 (and, as a matter of fact, so has been finding true love).
In Spain I finally gained the courage to go to actual salsa classes. “Actual”, as I had already had some informal ‘training’ kindly provided by my lovely, obsessed with salsa ex-flatmates. And while the well-equipped dance room was certainly an upgrade to our cozy, yet too tiny for the purposes of dancing kitchen, the experience did not come any closer to the fantasies that had been occupying my imagination for years. Where were the smoke of Cuban cigars and the almost palpable smell of sugar plantations and sweet memories? Sure, having a professional teacher and actual boys to dance with was definitely an advantage, but neither of them was Javier. Ah, the wrongs that Hollywood has done to girls…
Although salsa has been heavily influenced by the rhythms of many Latin and Afro-Caribbean countries, Cuba is widely regarded as the birthplace of the dance, which provides another explanation for my incapability to picture salsa in the embrace of any other place but its home. To my surprise, however, by the end of my exchange I had done so.
The turning point was witnessing tens of couples dancing salsa in the open air. Of course, I had already heard that Plaza de Dos de Mayo in the heart of Malasana would often ‘host’ Madrid’s swing enthusiasts, but actually seeing such a thing was truly powerful. Simply thinking about the lovely scene brings me tons of joy; had I actually dared dance instead of only observing shyly, I would be probably exploding with happiness at the moment. You are welcome, heart.
Lesson learned: Salsa was never meant to be danced in the fog of cigars’ smoke, nor with Javier per se.
New prefered setting: the warmth and comfort of a sunny Sunday afternoon.