It's almost a year now since I started taking salsa lessons at the studio here in Austin. I could never have imagined what it would feel like, and how I would be a year later. I probably would have expected more, quicker, but as it is, there's been steady progress. I've come a long way, I've way, way further to go. But it's been in increments that I can't even really delineate. For months I couldn't spin, and now I can. There are still others much better than me, and plenty worse. I navigate through the classes trying to keep up with the guys who are pushing me, and instructing the others that are getting their feet wet. It's great. Still challenging. Still totally invigorating. And pushing it up to the next level. Some Sunday nights now I head out after 10pm to the local club where others from my studio gather. It takes all my energy to walk in the door. But once there, it's tremendous fun to dance with the familiars. These strangers are strangers still, but we're connected with a kind of kindness and shared interest. In the off moments I steel myself from the humiliation, "Ugh no one to dance with. Why are they all dancing with her? (even though I know the answer to that one...). It's OK to sit and watch. It's OK."
Saturday I went to a two hour workshop in the middle of the day. A room full of women, almost all younger, almost all thinner. And we worked on styling. Owning the look of the dance. Using our shoulders, and arms, fingers extended, body rolls and hips moving. It's hard! It's hard not to feel like an idiot. At the same time, if you don't make the effort, you don't look great. The challenge is to ride out that middle period - before you look good, still working on it. I tell my daughter later, "you could think me ridiculous for trying in this room full of younger women, or you could think, 'this is great my mom is working on this.'" "I think it's great," she responds.
Later in the evening, after The Simpsons Movie with John, I head out again for the monthly salsa social. Each moment these days more precious as the most talented teacher is leaving soon for NYC. I haven't been since December or January. As always, I worry whether I'll have partners. But it's fine. I do. I dance so much the back of my neck and hair are completely wet. It's fun! There are two guys I dance with who know my level, and are sheer joy. With the others, I struggle up and down. The better guys are looking for something I don't exactly know how to follow. The newer, just trying to keep the beat and manage some simple moves. I'm happy to help them through. Back leading when necessary or just following to help them gain confidence. Once and awhile there's a shared glance and respectful distance. I know the guys see me, I try to emote that it's OK they're not asking me to dance. Other times I just stand and watch - digging the more talented. Both trying to learn and just enjoying the show. The star teacher and her partner insanely fabulous. When I head out @ 12:45 I feel invigorated and good. Proud I put myself out there and enjoyed myself.
Sunday I feel warmed up as the regular class starts. Monday, more exhilaration kicks in with Salsa 3, then 2 back to back. I'm trying to soak it all in before this special teacher moves on. Of course yes, there are other talented teachers at the studio but Azucena is amazing, both in her performance and teaching. I'm kicking myself that I wasn't ready earlier to add the On2 classes on Wednesday nights or sign up for the boot camp. I wish I could have pushed up earlier. But it just didn't work out. I had Monday night conflicts, as well as a natural learning curve.
But it's all cool here almost a year later. I'm so glad I started. I'm so glad I stuck with it. I'm excited to continue.