I’ve been taking samba dance classes for the past 6 months or so. And like most things I do for long enough, I’ve really started to hate it. Hehe. No…I don’t hate it, but things about it have really started to rub me the wrong way. I did the beginners’ level of for twelve weeks, and it was so much fun! Each week I would smile ear to ear as I rode the bus across the river reflecting all of the beautiful city lights, knowing I was on my way to the most enjoyable hour of my week. And after each class, I would catch the bus home with such satisfaction, glistening and radiant. I moved onto the second level, hoping I could keep learning new things. It was quite the leap in the skill level of the students to say the least. But I was okay with my skill level, remembering that I was mostly learning this style of dance because I love the music and it makes me feel relaxed and wonderful.
Recently, though, the other dancers have begun to bother me, how they seem to take this as a serious skill that must be mastered and perfected rather than what it is: a dance that people dance at parties, at festivals, at barbecues, mostly while at least a little tipsy if not completely intoxicated. It’s a sexy dance, a joyful dance. It proclaims the beauty and strength of a nation. It’s not an extension of ballet. So since I’m clearly soooo enlightened about this topic, hehe, why does the grace and precision of these other dancers in the class leave me feeling deflated and awkward now?
I didn’t dance when I was little, at least not in a formal instructional setting, but a lot of my friends did. I remember hanging out with the dance moms as they applied coat after coat of mascara on their daughters in hotel lobbies fumigated with hairspray just before dance competitions. I remember staying the weekend with friends and joining in on their ballet classes. I think I even tried out for some dance troupe with a friend once, just because she was trying out and I wanted to part of a real audition. I was always an outsider looking in on ballet, jazz, tap. Yet I never asked my parents if I could take dance classes. Instead I would put on a CD and dance in our living room at night with the lights on so that I could see my reflection in the three large windows. I would make up my own dance moves or copy ones I’d seen and choreograph whole songs. I did that for years. So I guess you could say even though I didn’t “do dance,” I’ve loved to dance my whole life. In college I became very “enthused” (as my dad would say jokingly) with salsa dancing, and over the five years I was in Miami I danced a LOT of salsa, some at the university or at parties, some out in dance clubs. It was a blast.
No one used to watch me when I was dancing. Sometimes I could pull my mom away from making beef stroganoff or spaghetti if I pleaded enough so that I could show her some new move I had made up. Even when I was older dancing salsa, I would mostly be colliding with other couples dancing on the tiny dance floor. With the whole room spinning, I lost track of the people standing outside the dance floor looking in. I still think that’s one of the best things about Cuban salsa. It’s like being a kid again, making yourself dizzy on purpose.
Now if my samba teacher watches me, I notice her cringe. She comes over and tries to help me improve my posture or the flow of my arms, but I know that I don’t look as graceful as the other girls. I still look very much like that girl dancing in front of the living room windows. But here’s the thing that I would really like to get off my chest: NO ONE is watching!!! NO ONE gives a shit!
In fact, no one is watching anything that you’re doing. No one cares that you run, that you bake things from Pinterest, that you eat at food trucks, that you spend your weekends at hipster bars, that you are a vegan or that you have gone sugar-free. No one cares how I dance, how you dance, or how great or stupid we look. And since no one cares, can’t we just put on a song and enjoy it? Are we allowed to do anything in our perfectly manicured lives anymore just for the hell of it?