Learning to dance salsa is hard. It takes lots of work, lots of lessons, lots of practice. You have to be willing to look awkward, fumbling, disjointed, autistic even, while you fumble through your beginner's baby steps. Over time, I have found that it takes about 18 months, or or less, to gain some semblance of mastery over the intricacies of the dance. Still, if you can stay the course, the satisfaction of dancing salsa well makes all your tribulations worthwhile. The self-confidence engendered by looking flowing and graceful while dancing to the music is priceless. If you are thinking about trying it, or if you have just begun, my advice is: go get it. You'll be glad you did. Just remember, there is no way around, only through, and practice, practice, practice.
Legendary cellist Pablo Casals, when asked why he continued to practice at age 90, replied: "Because I think I'm making progress."
I have been privileged to watch one of my favorite dancers pass through this progression. Cynthia, awkward as any novice, began dancing salsa four years ago. Gawky, hesitant, and unsure of herself, she was an ugly-duckling dancer on her way to becoming a beautiful, graceful swan; a queen of salsa.
As her dance career progressed, she benefited from a succession of dance relationships. She learned from very good leads, who teased out her growing abilities and made them shine. The more she learned, and the more she practiced, the better she became, and the better leads she attracted. One of my favorite sayings: When the student is ready, the teacher appears. This has certainly been true of Cynthia's career. Every lead has certain styles and moves which he prefers, that he does better than anyone else, and he will pass them on to follows who dance with him. Cynthia, a very quick study, now has a vast repertoire of moves, each imparted by a careful and instructive lead. Because she has danced with so many men, she anticipates what comes next, and carries the lead's intention out flawlessly, without the emasculating insult of back leading. Never pushy, never impatient, always attentive, she looks beautiful while dancing her ass off.
One thing that I have noticed over the years: the better the dancer, the lighter the touch. Novices require a heavy hand to keep them on course, or else they spin off into outer space. As they acquire more control over their body, the effort required of the leader to guide their movements lessens. Dancing with Cynthia resembles driving a Ferrari, rather than a dump truck. She requires only finger-tip control, a feather-like embrace. She has an ethereal presence, where only a hint of direction suffices to send her on her way. She is as light as a baby's breath. I love dancing with her.
Another facet of Cynthia's allure reflects her sense of style in clothing and shoes. She knows what looks good on her, and maximizes her brand through careful selection of dresses and heels. Her street shoes grace the picture at the top of the page. (We were dancing while this photo was taken). I don't know where she shops, but fashion mags should follow her around for story ideas. The ability to accessorize is innate, not acquired, and she has it in spades. She embodies the hard-to-beat combination of looking beautiful, dressing well, and dancing gracefully. Here's to Cynthia.