Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Not For the Mild At Heart

I convinced Jason that we needed a date night - not just nights where we go out on dates, but planned activities on a certain night of the week. Jason thought this was pretty silly, but he didn't know how silly until I announced that I'd booked us salsa lessons.

I put on some strappy shoes and a twirly skirt and let him escort me by the elbow. He was worried, of course. Jason dances about as well as other big white men. But the dance studio promised we'd be swinging in Toronto's latin clubs after just 3 lessons - guaranteed, or your money back.

We live in a portion of the city that is mainly asian (white people are the minority, the english language is the minority). There are plenty of east asians (chinese, korean, japanese, etc) but the majority seems to be south asian -(indian, etc) with a few west asians (middle easterners) mixed in for good measure. Of course, that's just country of origin. We're all Canadians now - some with varying degrees of newness. Some of us were born here, some just arrived. Some of us speak without the canadian accent, others are not quite discernible yet. It makes for interesting living, but it makes for particularly interesting dancing.

Now, the south asians seemed to be smart enough to stay home. This class consisted of Jason, Jamie, and the mostly koreans. Including the teacher. The teacher was so tiny I nearly stepped on her, but she had a genuine smile, and so I trusted her. I trusted she knew what she was doing even when she weaved between the couples doing what I could only call the backstroke, but out of water.

She danced around calling "one, two, tree, one, two, tree" over and over, but I could never tell discover a rhythm. She may as well have been reading the Gettysberg address over house music, because the truth about salsa music boils down to this: there are 3 steps, and 4 beats. 4 beats! 3 steps! I did the math in all my usual creative capacities, but I never did find out where that 4th beat was lost or hidden. So instead, I internalized the elusive fourth - I did step, step, shudder, step. The shudder made it look like I was repulsed by salsa, but at least it allowed me to keep my mind. Jason was not so successful. But eventually we replaced the "one, two, tree" with actual music - but that music runs at 180 beats per minute! Per minute! I mean, that's not as fast as my heart was going after just a few bars of this, but still. That's damn fast.

Jamie's feet: step, step, shudder, step, step, panic, recover, step, shudder, fuck, step, step, shudder, look around frantically, step, step, shudder, shudder, give up completely.

Jason's feet: clonk, clump, trip, trip, stop.

And that's the "basic step." Soon we were moving on to more advanced techniques.

First we learned the underarm turn - where sexily, I get to "flow" clockwise under Jason's armpit - you know, the one that is now dripping with exertion. I don't think he would be sweatier if he had just run the ironman.

And then came the casino rueda where our "embwace" rotates counterclockwise 180 degrees at lightning speed, Jason and I switching places.

And finally, the enchufla where we turn around completely as a whole and then have some sort of cross-body lead, and switch places in the end.

So as Jason and I contort ourselves trying to do these, the teacher scowls at us and yells "glide! arch your back!" until we were basically touching at the hands and pelvises only, stumbling around the room blindly, trying to make it look as if our groping was on purpose.

Then the teacher says we've had enough practice, it's time to dance (!). On comes the insanely fast music again, and we're supposed to string all of these moves together into an elegant but sexy sequence.

It goes something like this: step, step, shudder, stomp, shimmy, bump, bump, step, overstep, clockwise, woops, the other clockwise, change hands, under the armpit, step, step, shudder, pant a few seconds, try to sneak a break, twirl, twirl, twirl.

As the music ended and Jason and I clung to each other for structural support, the class around us erupted in applause. Funny, I thought, it felt like a disaster, but maybe we pulled it off. And then, finally getting his breath back, Jason leaned down and whispered in my ear When you twirl, everyone can see your panties.

So I'm pretty sure we'll be forfeiting the rest of our lessons, and that next week's date night will be a little slower-paced. Euchre, anyone?

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