When I first started taking Salsa classes, I looked around at all those tone young bodies, feeling a bit intimidated. What am I doing dancing with these young men, young enough to be my son? Not quite Harold and Maude, but you get the drift.
Yet, as I make my way in this 6th decade around the sun, I’ve never felt more vibrant, more in my body. Excited to see what awaits with the next dance.
Then I discovered Bachata, and with it, the witch who lives in my hips. My essence, my joy, my pleasure, lives in my hips. The wilder I let them roll, the freer I feel.
Abundance comes in the form of a free private lesson won at a street fair. The instructor is tall with sharp teeth but very friendly. A spin around the dance floor and he figures out what I know, don’t know. Asks what I want. I want the flavor, the spice. I’m learning the steps but want to understand the nuances.
We work on body rolls, common to Bachata. I don’t quite grasp the isolations and muscle groups moving differently than I’m accustomed to. But I am determined. Again, more slowly, again.
Then three magical tips from the school’s owner, a delightful older gentleman with pink fingernails and a scarf. He politely asks permission. Of course.
Tiny adjustments to hands, eyes, back, energy. Knowing these Latin dances are a grinding down, a grinding in. It is not the floating of the waltz, the refinement of the foxtrot, the flirtiness of swing. No, these are down-and-dirty dances, close and sensual. Foreplay on the dance floor.
Number one. Eyes up, head up. Your partner doesn’t want to look at your scalp when you dance. Meet his eyes, trust that you know the steps. You won’t remember them better by looking down at them.
Immediately I feel the shift up, the energy, the changes from simply lifting my torso. The communication with my partner. We are in it together.
Number two. Energize your hands, no lump of potato on a shoulder. Activate the fingers, let that energy flow. That life force flow. Claim your power.
Number three, final tip. Resist. Just enough that your partner feels you in the palm of his hand on your back. Let him know you are there. Hold yourself tall, upright. No collapsing in on his arms, melting over his shoulder.
I take them all in, delighting at the shifts with each suggestion. Realizing these are life lessons, not just dance lessons. How frequently I cast my eyes down, collapse inwards, cross my arms, protecting myself. Wary of revealing my sensuality, my lust for life, my energy.
I couldn’t sleep that night as I tossed and turned, remembering what I learned. Wanting more. Yes, teach me more. Yes, this makes my body sing. Yes, I am alive and electrified after a session like this.
Over the past months, I’ve struggled with wanting to know my “what’s next.” As a creative, struggling with the lull in direction. Asking the heavens above for a clue. Would it be a new book, a performance, maybe a short film? I was even contemplating moving to North Carolina.
But I look back at the patterns in my life. In the beginning, it was a day job so I could act. Then it was a day job so I could write. And now quite possibly, it is a day job so I can dance.
It is impossible to ignore the lure of the beating drums, the call of the guitar, the rising to a hand in invitation.
Years ago, at a retreat in Montana, we were asked two questions:
What is your life’s journey? I answered ‘Freedom.’
How will you reach it? I answered ‘Dance.’
As the moon rises in a dark sky, we women gather. To remember, to rejoice, in the power, in the magic. The aliveness that is our bodies, our hips, our breasts in dance. To surrender to the deep call of the earth, to the howl of the wild. To roll our witchy hips in freedom.