A Salsa dancing lesson in Mexico

(From time to time I write little stories that have nothing to do with programming or technology. This is one of those stories.)

As I stretched in Utthita Parsva Konasana, I took a break from my concentration and indulged in a moment of both reflection and forethought. For five days we drank tequila and sangria, swam in the warm ocean water, and even hiked in a Mexican jungle, but tonight it would be different: we would learn how to dance Salsa.

While it was a cold February day back in the United States, I was in this warm, small, Mexican town on the Pacific Ocean along with eleven other yogis and yoginis, my new compañeros.

Until five days ago most of us didn’t know each other. We came to Mexico from different locations on a “yoga vacation” organized by Jeannie, my yoga instructor back in Colorado. She’s organized this trip several times before, so in addition to providing two hours of yoga instruction each morning and afternoon, she also planned several meals and the trip into the jungle. For tonight she’s arranged a dancing lesson.

After we finished our afternoon class, half of our group walked directly into the ocean to cool off. Then we showered, put on light clothes, and regrouped in Kenny’s suite, where we drank margaritas and sangria, ate fresh fruit, and told some stories. As the Sun began to set we started our short walk to the beach, where we enjoyed a small candlelight dinner that Jeannie had arranged. After dinner we enjoyed a glass of local wine, and then walked to another area on the beach where our lessons began.

Our instructor was a pretty young Mexican woman named Isabella, who had a strong accent but spoke English very well. In the United States I thought she might be working her way through college, but I didn’t know what her opportunities were in this world.

After some brief instructions, her male assistants walked up to the women in our group, inviting them to dance, and she came to me. “A benefit of being one of only two men in the group,” I thought, taking her hand.

Someone began playing music on the speakers, and we started to dance a few simple steps back and forth. As she showed me the steps, her moves were graceful and smooth; mine were stiff and clumsy. After a few minutes I found some rhythm, and she began the next lesson.

“When you make this movement with your hand,” she said, showing me how to move her hand with mine, “I will spin like this,” she said, spinning around as she spoke.

“When should I make that movement?”, I asked when she came back around.

“Whenever you feel like it.”

“And you’ll spin like that?”

“Yes.”

“How will I know when to make that movement?”, I asked.

“You’ll know,” she said. “You’ll feel it.”

As we moved back and forth, I didn’t “feel” like making that movement; I was enjoying our moves as they were. As I felt a little less awkward, I took a few moments to look at our surroundings.

Looking down, I noticed the floor was made of smooth stones and sand. Looking around, I saw my compañeros either dancing with the young Mexican men, or sitting on a low stone wall that surrounded the dance area. Those who sat on the wall pointed at those of us who were dancing, and they smiled and laughed. I noticed the area was lit only by flaming torches.

Then a thought occurred to me and I returned my attention to Isabella.

“Welcome back,” she said, smiling.

“Do you like this?”, I asked. “Having the man be in control, I mean,” trying to clarify the intent of my question.

“Yes, I do,” she said, not looking down or away, but continuing to look right at me. “Very much.”

I made the movement with my hand and she spun with a flourish. She smiled. I felt the feeling of being in control. I liked it.

We moved back and forth a few more times. “I saw you dancing in town the first night we arrived,” I said. “Jeannie pointed you out. You’re a wonderful dancer.”

“Gracias. You are relaxing and getting much better yourself,” she said, smiling politely and giving some hope to my dancing.

Instinctively I made the hand movement and she spun around. We smiled.

“She’s right,” I thought. “If I pay attention to her, I’ll know when I want her to spin.”

“I think I’m ready for the next lesson,” I said.

“Yes, I think you are.”

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