I have always loved to dance, whether it was daggy dancing in the lounge room or having a good boogie at a club. The feeling that comes with dance makes you feel so good that when I moved to Melbourne, and sometimes even now, I would usually start my day with a dance before I went to work or anywhere for that matter.
I had always wanted to learn salsa dancing and decided to take a free class at a salsa school not far from home. After one try, I was hooked and salsa class became my rock and hands down one of the best things I have ever done in my life.
Twice a week, I’d go to class and just be in the beautiful moment that was dance. When I walked into class, my world became about concentrating on learning. You had to leave all your troubles at the door as there just wasn’t room on the dance floor for them.
Salsa dancing requires focus. For mental health, I would absolutely rate it as a winner. You are exercising, you are in a safe space, you leave with your endorphins absolutely popping. It’s a beautiful distraction from anything else that may be going on in life and you are living in the moment and that is one of the best places to be.
Salsa also requires you to get really close to others and from my first awkward lesson where I barely wanted to touch a boy, to the times I would be on the dance floor in such close positions that they might be deemed obscene anywhere else, the routine and ritual of dance helped me to gain so much confidence with the opposite sex and also confidence in myself.
For everyone in that first class having to touch another person you didn’t know seemed weird. There was awkward small talk, obligatory stepping on toes, bumping into each other and the chorus of “oops sorry”, “sorry”, “sorry, sorry, sorry”.
And don’t even think about looking into your partner's eyes. That was the ultimate discomfort.
From very early on in the salsa dancing journey, the encouragement to respectfully be in another person’s space became easier, and ever so slowly, the need to keep looking at your feet while you dance disappears, as the auto pilot takes over and it becomes second nature to look into your partner’s eyes and also get up close and personal.
The more you dance, the closer you get to others in more ways than one, so I wasn’t surprised at how many engagements were announced in the few years I was dancing. These lovers would be able to do the best wedding dance moves ever. I however, did not find love on the dance floor.
Salsa is also great for your fitness. I live in a body positive space as a plus size woman and I never talk diets or make commentary on weight, whether it’s mine or someone else’s, but salsa delivered a level of fitness that I was pleased to have found. I toned up, in a way that was only present when I was practicing a strict yoga regimen many years ago. Salsa dancing is fast, even when you are learning.
I also loved to wear fun outfits when I went out dancing and even in class, sometimes, less was more, as it got hawt...
As you will come to know, events unfolded that put my dancing on the back burner for nearly a year. It didn’t diminish my love for it in anyway, but I certainly felt that there was something missing during this time.
I was able to pick up my dancing again and expand from classes to social dancing and with that my outfit choices also became more fun.
Sometimes, it was jeans and a t-shirt. Other times it was sparkles and often things were short and tight. Well, why the hell not. I was always an adventurous dresser, and I was happy to take it to the next level and explore a sexier side of myself that was very much needed. The teachers were also role modelling the looks so I was happy to share mine.
Oh, how I loved this red dress. I had decided to go for my first ever social dancing night and wanted to wear something that was worthy of the dance floor. I remember racing over to town in my lunch time to one of my favourite shops called The Quick Brown Fox which had a mix of new and second hand stuff, and here was this beautiful red dress. It was meant for me and meant for my first night out salsa dancing. The moment I put that dress on, I felt incredible.
As a sewer, I began to make fun dresses and outfits for the dance floor and even went as far as sewing sequins on my undies, so that any flash would be dazzling. And yes, there were flashes, and yes, they were dazzling.
My class was not far from home, and I would walk there and back, always enjoying the beautiful cityscape and cementing my well-worn path as I moved through the changing of the seasons which was one of the joys of Melbourne and this city always put on a show.
Salsa is like learning a second language and one that can be enjoyed no matter where you are in the world.
I will never forget the 1, 2, 3 clap, 5, 6, 7 clap, which is the beat of salsa and even now, it sparks a bit of happy and a little shoulder shimmy when I count the beat. Salsa was one of my fondest memories from living in Melbourne and something I did almost till the time I left a few years later.
I can’t say I ended up being the world’s best salsa dance, but I do believe that the love of dance helped me in so many ways and added to my sense of self and ongoing growth as there is something so liberating and freeing about the movement of dance.