Thursday, April 15, 2010

Barkeep Make It A Stiff One

Remember back when I was listening to salsa music, lost control of my senses and said I was going to sign Dean and I up for salsa lessons? Well, I did it. And then I got scared. I just wasn’t sure if we could do it. I was scared Dean was unteachable. What if, no matter how hard Dean tried, he would always be half a beat off? What if I never learned to let him lead? But then again ... what if I found out we’re awesome salsa dancers? We went so we could find out.

Salsa Week One
Eight of us lined up in front of our instructor, Machelle, who said, “I’ve been teaching dance for 30 years, yeah? And it’s important for you to have fun. Yeah? If you aren’t having fun I’m not doing my job, yeah? You are all going to be sore tomorrow, yeah? You’re going to want to take Tylenol and Ibuprophen tonight, yeah? she looking at us? Because we’re going to be moving some hips tonight, yeah? And remember, when you crawl out of bed in the morning and your body hurts, my name is Sheila. Yeah? You’re going to want to curse Sheila. Now let’s learn some salsa, yeah?”

First we stood and lifted our feet one at a time like we were marching. “Just a little bit, yeah? Just barely off the floor.” And we had to bend our knees at the same time. “The deeper you bend your knees, the more your hips will sway, yeah?” Left, right, left, hold. Left, right, left, hold. "The upper body is not supposed to move. Just move your feet and your hips will move, yeah? Don’t look down.” I looked over to my right, and with every step, Dean is pushing his corresponding shoulder forward. He was trying hard but the poor guy just wasn’t getting it.’re moving your shoulders. Don’t move your shoulders. Am not. Yes. You are.

Then we practiced the same three steps only we moved forward, then backwards, then side to side. We kept practicing those steps standing in a line. Facing her. Watching her and trying to copy her. I tried to give Dean pointers but I discovered I can’t whisper and count at the same time. And anyway it was hard to see what he was doing when I was looking at my feet.  "Everybody learns at their own pace." she said. she looking at us again?  "If you can only manage the first step tonight that is perfectly fine, yeah? Just have fun with it, yeah?” Then we had to dance with each other. With music playing.

We faced each other, straight backs, arms up. Left, right, left, hold. “For you ladies, that will be right, left, right, hold, yeah?” Say, what? You just taught us to start with the left foot. Now I have to start with the right? What the heck? “And men. Lean over from the waist, just a little. See how that makes your tush stick out a bit? Men don’t wiggle like we women do so you need to stick your little tushes out. See how you wiggle when you bend your knees? (snickering women noises) It’s the man’s job to lead, yeah? He’s the boss. In this class anyway, right ladies? heh heh heh. The man will tell you where he wants you to go by pushing you. You’ll feel his push and you’ll know where he’s leading you, yeah?” Yeah, right.

Dean and I have danced together before.  We even took a ballroom dance class about 20 years ago.  But that whole rhythm, keeping time and letting the man lead stuff just makes dancing difficult for us.  I was really hopeful before we came to the first salsa class. I thought we might actually learn to take more than four steps without losing our place. I thought this time we might actually both go in the same direction at the same time. I wasn’t expecting miracles. I didn’t think we’d be Fred and Ginger. I just I thought this time we might be able to dance a little less like the tin man and the scarecrow. In reality, it went something like this:

Me: You keep forgetting to hold after the third step. You need to hold. Count to four. Four is the hold. I’m always going the opposite way because you forget to hold.

Dean: You’re not looking at me. You’re looking at your feet. You’re supposed to be looking at me.

Me: I lost count. We have to start over. Okay. Start now. No, wait. You started the wrong direction.

Dean: Did not.

Me: Yes, you did. Wait….wait….okay. Start now. Why are you going that direction? We’re not going the same way. I wasn’t ready. Start again. My arm is getting tired. You’re supposed to be bracing my arm. What are you doing? I’m not going anywhere and you’re going sideways. You’re supposed to be leading.

Dean: I was leading.

Me: No you weren’t. I couldn’t feel any pushing. Don’t bend your arms. You need to hold the frame. I can’t follow if I can’t feel you pushing. I’m lost again. We have to start over. Okay. Left, right, left, … wait….I wasn’t ready….

Both: Looks like we’ll be practicing salsa dancing at home.

Did we practice at home before we went to the next class? Of course we did! Twice. For five minutes. And of those five minutes, approximately two minutes was spent dancing and the rest, as is our way, was spent standing and discussing and starting over.

Salsa Week Two
My favorite part of the salsa class was arriving early enough to watch the country swing class ahead of us. Nothing improves your confidence more than watching people dance who are as bad (I know, hard to believe) as you are. Look at that couple. snicker They look just like us. See? They keep standing and talking. Look. Now they’re starting over. See? Just like us! No, I think we’re more like that couple over there. Don’t point. See how stiff they are? See, she’s looking at the floor….

A gentleman of approximately 60-something stayed after the country swing class just because he wanted to increase his repertoire in order to impress the ladies at the local cowboy bar.  I thought Dean and I were getting better but Mr. Cowboy felt the need to keep helping us.  At one point he said “dancing just isn’t fun when you argue." I smiled sweetly and thanked him for his help. Get a clue, buddy. This is us discussing. You have no idea what real arguing is. Go away and help somebody else. We’re trying to have fun here.

Salsa Week Three
The country dance class ahead of us had no people show up so there were no whispered comments to entertain ourselves.  But there was, once again, 100% participation in the salsa class. We were all ready to kick (or I should say wiggle) some salsa butt. Things finally clicked for Dean and me. We did a whole series of steps without stopping to count, discussing the next move, or starting over. We felt like cheering. Okay. We did cheer. A little. Quietly.

Salsa Week Four---The Final Class
I didn’t want to go. It happened to be one of those exceptionally rare days when I was cranky. "What else is she going to teach us?" I said. "We just need to practice what we’ve learned." Dean said, “we’re going”, and we went. Later, when he was talking on the phone to Abby, I heard “your mom has a great time dancing.  She doesn't even need to drink first. She just has fun----even though she doesn’t know what she’s doing. And it makes her less cranky.” I wasn’t sure what impressed me more---the fact that he would subject himself to 1½ hours of dancing in order to make life with me easier, or that he had figured out it would work.

A professional ballroom dancer (male) came to this class.  The instructor thought we should all dance one song with him. (The women, that is. You know men. They won’t sleep in the same bed together even if they’re both wearing armor; there’s no way they’d dance with another man.) I was feeling pretty dang good about my improved dancing skill until it was my turn to dance with him. I was the only woman who spent more time receiving instruction from him than actually dancing. And I didn’t hear him tell anybody else that they “are stiff.”  Well excuuuuuuuse me, Mr. Ballroom. Your job is dancing.  I spend all day pounding a keyboard and playing with a mouse. And then I come here and try to dance with a husband who doesn’t believe in any semblance of a dance routine because he “gets bored.” It’s bad enough I’m not allowed to lead, but I have to follow a rebel. YOU try dancing with him and we’ll see how “stiff” YOU are. 

No, I didn’t really say, or even think that. I’m such a wimp. I thought this-----in a feel sorry for me voice. “Really? I’ve been trying so hard. I’m stiff? Are you sure? Because I’ve been wiggling my hips all over the place… I didn’t even try and lead ….. I thought I was ….…. almost …… good….."

A little bit later Dean and I just couldn’t get the hang of another variation of the dance.  Our instructor came over and danced the man’s part with me and then she danced the woman’s part with Dean. After she danced with Dean he said, “’s Cathy that has been doing it wrong?” There are no words to adequately describe the ecstasy on Dean’s face when she nodded yes so I’m not even going to try.

So ends the Saga of the Salsa.  (I know.  It was a long one.  Is anybody still out there?)  There is no more unknown. We know we aren’t great. We aren’t even good. But we are better than when we started. And we had fun. My dream of Dean and I tearing up the dance floor at Abby’s wedding reception will be a nightmare for those watching but that’s okay. Abby tells me whiskey is the preferred drink at Ecuadorian wedding receptions so we’ll just make sure there’s plenty of it to ease the pain of anyone watching us.

You know what they say--Practice Makes Perfect and Hope Springs Eternal.  In six months this could be us.  Get ready Ecuador.  Here we come!◦


Jerry said...

Don't expect your elderly father to get on the dance floor, I will stay close to the bar.

Leslie said...

I can't wait for October and the opportunity to see you in action! I will be right there along side of you while Ryan whispers in MY ear to let him lead and loosen up.

Abby said...

Poor Dad! I'm glad he made you go to the last lesson, and I can't BELIEVE you were going to skip it. Jorge and I better start practicing soon or you will be showing us up at our own wedding (well, showing ME up, Jorge dances salsa like a pro...)

Art Elser said...

Well, I clicked on "this" and you guys really looked good. You've colored your hair since I last saw you, and it's lots longer. Dean didn't look too bad either.

Great descriptions as usual, Cathy. I love reading your blogs.

Can I watch you and Dean practice?

Lesley Collins said...

I admire you for just showing up at the class.