Salsa dancing – The diary of a bystander

Salsa dancing

As I sat on the side for the n+1th time while music played and couples danced, I wondered ‘Why?’ and a hand approached out of nowhere. It was the host of that Salsa night. I felt a surge of hesitation. I hadn’t danced in months! If this lead (usually boy/man in Latin American dance styles) is the host of this social night then he must be a good dancer. Will I be good enough for him? I took the offer anyway and followed him to the dance floor.


Two moves were enough to tell him that I wasn’t. What happened next was wonderful. His smile didn’t vanish, his forehead didn’t wrinkle and nor did he switched to more basic moves. But there was an instant understanding. He kept challenging me without making me feel incompetent. I warmed up by the time song ended. Once again I was back to my favorite spot as in all social nights, irrespective of the venue, city or country. But it wasn’t the same old me. Something just happened and I was frantically searching for answers within.


On immeasurable accounts, I had sat or stood on the sides through social nights looking at the strangers with familiar faces. Wondering about ‘how I looked’ on the dance floor or if ‘I was good enough’ for the lead dancing with me. And these thoughts disturbed me to the core. Social nights were the only times I felt these feelings. In real life I never care about how I look or if I am good enough for anybody. Even during my adolescence years, I never chased or fancied any boys, never wondered if I was good enough for anybody. I was good enough for myself and that’s all that mattered to me.


I guess that’s why I stopped going to dance socials at some point as they created internal conflict with my personality. I didn’t like feeling inferior, vulnerable doing what I like the most – dance. As a child, I always danced as if no one was watching. Even today, I dance without a care in the world except for in Latin American social nights. I sat there pondering over all these thoughts as the third song came to an end & the host approached me again. I was doubly surprised this time.


Once I was told by a male friend that he wouldn’t dance with me the second time at the same social night since it is looked down upon by other men present there for reasons incomprehensible to even him. So to be approached by the host for the second time was completely unexpected. I felt comfortable dancing with him. He didn’t make me uncomfortable, gave me space and was happy to enjoy music even though I wasn’t ‘shining’ on the dance floor. As I danced with him, I loosened up. For the first time, I felt myself, not worrying about how I look on the floor, but enjoying the music with him.


As the song finished and I grabbed my seat on the side, it dawned upon me. A teacher is so much more than someone who teaches you the techniques. A teacher can make or break your self esteem. We have all been there. We hated a certain subject in school because the teacher was not good enough, or he/she made us feel incompetent. I suddenly excelled in one subject in school I thought I hated and the only reason was the new teacher who encouraged me.


When choosing a dance teacher we only look at his/her dance skills. But a dance teacher is much more than that. It doesn’t matter how good dancer he is on the dance floor, but what matters is how good a human being he is off it. You are not only learning to put the right foot ahead of left, but you are handing over your soul to him. You are opening up, making yourself vulnerable. And a bad teacher can do more harm than good. They can scar your soul for rest of your life.


I feel, dance is a way of expressing ourselves, and if we are in constant fear of being judged or in pressure to prove ourselves then it defeats the purpose. Then we shut ourselves inside, afraid, alone and clueless about why something so joyful makes you miserable. I found answers to the questions which had been bothering me for many years that night.


I overcame my fear and approached few leads on my own. They were all equally gracious, understanding and most importantly not making me feel incompetent. I found something in those strangers what I couldn’t find in a sea of familiar faces for many years. It was a night of awakening.


From now on, I am going to do what I have been doing since I was a child – enjoy dancing. I am going to move to the rhythm without worrying if that move looks good enough to the others. I am not going to let those scars become a barrier. I am not going to let anybody make me feel incompetent, inferior, wanting to prove myself with every move. I am going to be myself!

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