Two friends try a night of salsa

Galen Eye Centre

Nacho average salsa class.
Photo: 

Victoria: As avid fans of a good chips-and-salsa pairing, Steph and I were elated when Erika, our beloved Lifestyle Editor, suggested we attend a salsa class. 

After our enthusiastic yesses rang out across the Journal house, we realized we were in for a far different pursuit, though an equally spicy endeavour, indeed. 

Stephanie: Our destiny was along a different path — salsa dancing. Now, unlike Shakira, my hips definitely do lie and salsa dancing has never been something I thought I’d ever succeed at. I’m still not convinced.

While Steph does often belt out Shakira in the kitchen when she thinks I’m not home, I can verify that neither of us were even remotely prepared for this endeavour. 

Until the very recent hire of a new Features Editor, I was hailed as the “least coordinated member of Journal staff”. I’m sure he would like to counter this gauntlet-passing, but that’s why he wasn’t invited.

You’re still the most uncoordinated.

Rats. Anyway, onto the history of all things salsa (the dance, not the food). 

Though my first year at Queen’s involved a well-meaning Russian friend hell-bent on teaching our year a “salsa flash mob”, neither of us had much experience. 

Well, I had quite a bit more experience than Victoria. Not only was I extremely skilled at belting Shakira in the kitchen, I had also lived in South Florida for three years. Amongst a very densely Hispanic population, I managed to find myself a prom date who was well-versed in salsa dancing. Much to his dismay, my only experience was in Highland dancing. 

I prefer the underappreciated art of “middle-aged-dad dancing”. But these are stories for another time, because here we found ourselves, in a strange campus gymnasium, surrounded by dancers, unsure of whether we should or shouldn’t take off our shoes. 

Apparently you’re not supposed to take your shoes off.

We learned that the hard way. Followed by a very quiet attempt to put them back on without our instructor noticing. 

Thankfully there were a few kind bystanders who gave us a sympathetic look as we frantically pretended that we knew what we were doing.

Indeed. Bless them. After the shoe debacle, the dancing began.

First of all, the class was taught by a much older gentleman, but man, he put our hips to shame. After a few attempts at “shines”, or solo moves, we were hustled into a circle and partnered off. 

While Steph and I originally intended to goof off and dance together, we were swept off our feet by the host of charming and surprisingly agile men around the room. 

Disclaimer: by “swept off our feet” I mean that I literally lost my footing. More than once. That’s more embarrassing than this already is. 

Like I said, still the most uncoordinated member on Journal staff. 

Anyways, as an infrequent club goer, I have horrid memories of Ale House’s version of “being swept off my feet”, but this was quite different. Not only was I asked politely, there was also no butt grabbing involved … except by Victoria. 

I wanted to mess with our photographer’s shots, and I think it worked. But I agree. 

One of the first and most glaring differences to a night out was the consensual atmosphere. While salsa is world-renowned as a “seductive” form of dance, the class was an atmosphere of mutual respect.

While some male partners were better than others, smiles were shared all around. Even the poor lads who had clearly been doing this for a while were being patient and helped teach us the moves. Unfortunately for them, I was absolutely terrible at mastering any spins. 

Despite this, the most important aspect was the fact that I felt incredibly comfortable, and never threatened with whichever partner I happened to be with.

The comfort level was so important. The trust you have to place in your partner — after a few seconds of introduction — is huge for salsa dancing. You’re spinning quickly, trusting that this stranger will be there to steady you in a second. 

While this was far from the most “intimate” form of dancing I’ve seen, the connection that was required for it was beyond what you would find in a closely-gyrating nightclub enthusiast. 

Along with the comfort and trust that was gained, there was also an unspoken connection found between all of the partners. There was a unique sense of flow involved that I’ve never experienced in any other dance class I’ve taken. Once you got into this flow with your partner, you only had to rely on that — the choreography and moves seemed irrelevant. 

That’s true. After we had a few basic steps, spins and turns mastered (ish), you could really just have fun combining them however you wanted with your partner.

It was like that part in The Sound of Music where Julie Andrews teaches the Von Trapp children their Do Re Mi’s, and they can sing anything they want. Without Julie Andrews. Unfortunately. 

That changed the class from  a learning workshop to a social endeavour. Different partners had different styles, different moves to share, and you adapted to each one uniquely. 

During this social dancing time, I tried my best to embrace the seductive nature of salsa dancing. I still don’t have any phone numbers, but I plan to return.

Look out, men of Queen’s Spanish & Latin American Students’ Association (SALSA). She’s coming for you. And this time, she’s got her dancing shoes on. Or any shoes at all. Anything is better than last time. 

In reality though, many of the dancing partners became much more attractive because of the consensual atmosphere of intimacy. I had no intention to go there looking for phone numbers, but by the end I wouldn’t have turned any down.

Honestly, men of salsa (the dance, not the food), I owe you an apology. I assumed any man in the room under the age of 30 was there to pick up women. I was wrong, and you’re surprisingly better dancers than I am. 

Overall, the entire experience was wonderful from start to finish. 

Okay, maybe not the start because of the awkward shoe incident.

But after that miscommunication, it was phenomenal. I may not have left with any phone numbers, but I did leave with a big smile on my face and the desire to return to master the art of sassy hip motions.

To our partners, you may not be a Tostito, but  we’d dip with you anytime. 

Overall, this class was a brilliant example for anyone who routinely goes out to Ale, Stages or the likes, about the sexiness of consent in a dancing atmosphere. That’s my big takeaway. 

A dance can be as seductive as you wish to no avail, but if you ask permission and respect each other’s boundaries, you may win the hearts of these two ill-prepared nacho enthusiasts. 

By the way, we definitely ate chips and salsa (the food, not the dance) when we got home.

When dancing is nacho scene, snacks will always be there. 

Until the next time Erika has a lapse in judgement, we’re Steph and Victoria signing off from this Postscript with a little more coordination, a little more spice in our step  and a whole lot of joy. 

Stay classy, Queen’s.

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