Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Why I dance

It's undeniable--I love to dance. But why? Not everyone enjoys it or finds it a good way to spend their time? Why do I?

I think I've always liked to dance but I'm not particularly talented, so my childhood ballet and modern dance classes didn't really "stick". I did often get asked in junior high if I were a dancer, but I could never understand why.

After I graduated from college and while I was aimlessly trying to find a full time job, I signed up for adult ballet classes. I went twice a week for about a year (maybe less). I really liked it but then I stopped.

I also found out about swing dance lessons in Seattle. I went once, felt shy and out of place, being much younger than the crowd, and never went again.

Then, in Chapel Hill, I didn't have time for much outside of rowing, school and the current boyfriend for the first couple of years. Then, I heard that on Wednesday nights, the Crescent City Music Hall (a small bar with a small dance floor) had salsa dancing on Wednesday nights. I called up my friend KJ and persuaded her to come with me. We sat and listened to the music and watched people dance. I loved the music. I didn't know that they had a beginner lesson earlier, so I'd missed that. I was desperate to dance but I didn't know how. I was hoping someone would ask me, and finally, someone did.

That someone was Hector. He walked over to where I was sitting and asked me to dance. I said I didn't know how. He laughed and said he was sure I did. I emphatically explained that I did NOT know how. I said, "Maybe you can show me." We got on the dance floor and I was completely lost. Hector was not pleased. He escorted me back to my seat. KJ looked at me. I said, "I TOLD him I didn't know how to dance!" We laughed but I felt bad.

Soon after, KJ had to leave. I stuck around. I moved to a table closer to the dance floor. I sat near a large group of other grad student types (aka white people) and I pretended to be part of their group. The other people in the club were mostly Latino guys. A few groups of white women. And me. I was completely intoxicated by the music and the dance. I don't know why I didn't leave since I was sure no one would ask me to dance again after the Hector debacle. It grew later...and I was asked to dance again, this time by Fernando.

I explained that I didn't know how to dance. He said, "I'll show you."

I said, "You will? Really? You have to show me because I don't know what I'm doing."

"I'll show you."

He did show me--what turned out to be the Merengue, which is a simple two-step dance. He was patient and I caught on right away. He also showed me how to straighten my left arm to put distance between me and overly friendly partners. We stayed and danced until the placed closed. I gave him my number.

A few days later, Fernando called and asked if I was going dancing again on Wednesday. I said I was. This time, I got to the club early to take the lesson, which was for salsa--and I realized why Hector gave up on (rude though he was). It would have been much harder to teach this step.

I then danced with each guy who asked me, until Fernando arrived. I danced the rest of the night with him. That's how it went for several weeks. I recruited another friend to join me on the salsa nights. Sometimes we went out on Fridays too, to another dance at a hotel near the airport. I'd see Fernando there as well. I took many beginner lessons. I learned by dancing with different guys. It was exhilarating.

Fernando called sometimes to see if I were going dancing. He never asked me to do anything else and we never talked very long on the phone (his English was only so-so). The last time he called, he said he was sorry but he wouldn't see me again. He was moving to Alaska. I was sad and told my friend. She said, "I bet he's getting deported." I never saw Fernando again, but I was always grateful for his patience and how he took the time to teach me.

Grateful for: my salsa teacher.


  1. That is an incredibly sweet story.

  2. yj: I think so too. :) I really missed him after he went away. I hope it all worked out for him.


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