Unfortunately I was born with two left feet, not literally, but in the sense that I have absolutely no rhythm, fluidity or grace whatsoever when it comes to dancing. I am more of a clumsy giraffe than black swan, and I find it hard enough to not walk like a butch rugby player in heels let alone think about prancing around and trying to look sexy. But when Ed Sheeran’s heart-melting track “Thinking Out Loud” hit the charts this year, in which he dances with a barefoot beauty in a twilight ballroom it absolutely captured my heart and made me realise how incredibly spine-tingling dancing is, and how much I really would really love to learn. At the age of 27 I am all for making a dent on my bucket list, and this is something I am seriously excited and nervous about as I’ve been invited to a dance lesson by the sensational David and Julie of Salsa En Amor.
I have no co-ordination and the memory of a goldfish when it comes to learning steps, my confidence in my ability to dance is below zero, and in nightclubs I stand frightfully still with a drink in my hand, desperate to join in with others who are so carelessly confident on the dance floor but I’m far too aware of my awkwardness and feel frozen each time that I want to move. I know that my lack of self-confidence in dancing really holds me back, and at times I suspect people presume that I’m either too stuck up or too boring to dance, whilst I stand there in my new dress and heels screaming inside to give it a go and to hell with what people think, but the butterflies in my stomach always hold me back. I was incredibly shy and bullied as a child for being geeky and lanky, so I spent my childhood trying to hide away from people and not to draw attention to myself. When I did try to dance in my early teens it was like trying to plait your hair in the mirror for the first time, I was so uncomfortable and uncoordinated that I stood out like a sore thumb and so I shied away from dancing instead. As I’ve grown up I have learnt to accept my flaws and weaknesses and I will not allow them to define me; even if I’ll only ever dance like a plodding penguin at least I can say that I gave it a go.
Salsa en Amor is the lovechild of David and Julie who started out their dance club in Thame, Bucks. They soon filled the venue to capacity and relocated to Aylesbury where they have held weekly classes for the past eight years and counting. Their ethos is to have fun, and together they teach salsa with a sense of humour to make you laugh and smile, keeping people coming back time and time again. Their taste for urban inspired Latin music has a gritty edge and more funk, setting them apart from other clubs and proving extremely popular with their students. Meeting David for my personal dance lesson, I stood nervously in my all black leggings, vest and heels, unsure of what to expect and how long it would take for me to step on his toes or headbutt him by mistake. David comically assured me that he’s quite used to dodging awol elbows and stray steps, as everybody has to start from the beginning and work their way up which was reassuring to hear. Quickly it became apparent that I have a very British approach to dancing, the stiff upper lip, rigid limbs and shyness for standing in such close proximity to somebody whilst maintaining eye-contact and moving together as one. I guess it’s not everyday that you stand nose to nose with somebody you’ve never met and dance in their arms when you have absolutely no idea how to move. Ah yes, the dancing, I guess we should get to that shouldn’t we. Well I was just as bad as I had feared I’d be, but fortunately David is very skilled, patient and helpful, giving me all of the time and support that I needed. From taking me through the basics of a beginner step to actually building a fully choreographed routine, I was utterly surprised and elated by what we had achieved in such a very short space of time.
The hour and a half lesson literally flew by, and with each minute that passed I gradually loosened up, gaining the correct posture, my feet automatically followed David’s and we were laughing and chatting as we strutted our way around the studio to a hot urban latin track with an irresistible gritty beat. What David taught me in just one session has been more than I’ve managed in twenty-seven years to date, which is testament to his amazing teaching skills, and I had the most fantastic time. He decided to teach me a choreographed routine in order to show me a selection of turns, steps and moves as a very shocking beginner and I certainly tested him with my awful balance in heels and rigid limbs. Upon asking David what the biggest thing is that his students take away from learning salsa, it was no surprise to hear that “confidence” was his answer. Because dancing is such a positive and life affirming skill to have, not only does it build on social skills, eye-contact, communication, trust, agility and assertive body-language, but it’s also a great way to burn calories, keep in shape and meet new like-minded people. Ranging in age from 16 to 60-something, his students include men, women, different races, religions and varying abilities who all come together as one to enjoy the art of dancing, and it’s literally impossible not to leave a class tapping your feet with a massive smile plastered all over your face.
Salsa En Amor’s unique rotating salsa course means that you can join at any time, and if you miss a week or two you needn’t worry. In fact they are so confident that you’ll love dancing with them that they don’t charge up front for a 6 week course. On a typical dance evening the doors open at 20:15, the class warm up starts at 20:30 and finishes for 21:45 with a group cool down and Latin night club until 23:30pm where students can practice what they’ve learnt, watch and dance with other dancers and enjoy a few drinks at the bar. Not only is dancing a fantastically social event, which you can do with or without a partner as the dancers switch with each other, but it’s also a fabulous form of exercise too. And just as you would dress for a night out in jeans and heels, or smart dinner shoes, you can put on your glad rags and prepare for a night on the tiles, laughing, dancing and chatting to other like-minded people; it’s certainly not a casual trainers and tracksuit event. And the nice thing about it, is that even if you’re a little shy and out of practise like me, then nobody minds as there are no spectators so everybody there is already dancing and having fun and too busy to notice, after all we all have to start from the beginning, even the teachers. Classes run all year round and range in ability from absolute beginners to accomplished dancers for just £7.00 per session, £5.00 for concessions and £3.00 after 21:45.
I thoroughly enjoyed my first salsa lesson at Salsa En Amor and now I understand why people love it so much, and if I can be so bad at dancing and actually learn a routine then anybody can. The buzz that you get from dancing to a beat is hair raising, the atmosphere, energy and beauty of movement to music is incredibly addictive and I have a new found appreciation for it. David explained that salsa typically involves the man leading a lady, with the knowledge of several structured steps, each dance is then created on the spot, in the moment and can become as extravagant and complex as you wish. For a couple, salsa can have such a romantic air, gentlemanly, protective and a strong sense of togetherness; for a singleton salsa breaks down the barriers of reservation or awkwardness and allows you to appreciate and understand body language and confidence. For whatever reason you choose to dance, with whoever your partner may be, you are sure to leave with the biggest smile on your face and a spectacular spring in your step.