Originally published on 29th Sep 2014.
My friends Brooke and Jerida took up a salsa class last week. As soon as I heard about it, I was in. No reasons, no rationalization, just sign me up and let's go. They were keen to have me on board, because there are never enough men who enroll in dance classes.
The place was at 223 Flinders St in the city. I rushed straight over after my work at the radio station was done. Let's see, 217... 219... 221... I arrived at a building titled something like "German Social Hall". Was this it? I looked at the buildings either side of it. None of them seemed like places that could hold dance classes. A man pulled into the carpark behind me, jumped out and headed into the hall. He was an athletic looking guy with olive skin and wearing a cap. As he got to the door, he stopped and turned to me.
'You look lost mate, come on in.' He must have known I was there for the class. I followed him in and we stepped into a small carpeted room with lots of tables and chairs and a bunch of nerdy-looking middle-aged men sitting around, eating dinner.
'You're here for the boardgame club, right?' He asked.
Now there's something about me that I've never directly mentioned, but you've probably figured out for yourself by now. Whenever anything weird happens, I always wan't to play it out and see where it goes. I guess it's the comedian in me, always looking for a funny story to tell.
'Yeah, I am,' I said to the guy who brought me in, and I got my phone out to text Jerida and tell her I wasn't going to make it.
The men finished their dinners and started discussing which games they wanted to play.
'Have you played Archipelago?' asked the guy who led me in.
'No, but I've heard of it.'
'That doesn't help,' he joked.
'Well, I can learn...'
'I think the other boys are playing Kingsford, that might be a better game to start off with.
I walked over to the other group that had formed.
'Hey boys, I heard you're playing Kingsford over here. Got room for another player?'
'Well we do, but we're not playing Kingsford. We're playing Brass. Have you ever played it before?'
'No, what's it about?'
'It's a Euro game.'
'Oh... I see. Is it a strategy game?'
'Because I've played a lot of Risk.'
'..................................I don't think you'd find this very fun. Kyle! We need a fourth player for Brass! Are you in?
'Yeah, sure.' Replied Kyle and jumped into the empty chair.
I guess I'd been excluded. I felt like I was back in high school. I faked an urgent phone call and made an excuse to leave, ducking across the hall to where a sign said "Salsa Connection Dance Class". Jerida arrived a few minutes later and gave me a quizzical look.
'I'll explain later,' I mumbled to her as the rest of the class filed in.
Brooke had been held back at work, so it was just Jerida and myself. At the front of the hall was a very handsome couple just casually dancing away while the students arrived. I was blown away by how effortlessly sexy they looked. And a little annoyed that I knew I wouldn't look the same.
There were 6 people in total. The six of us gathered in a group and the man from the couple introduced himself.
'I'm Paul, this is Charli,' He said, motioning to the girl next to him.I had a sudden embarrassed flashback to a similar incident involving a hot instructor named Charli. 'For those who weren't here last week,' (he looked directly at me) 'we'll just do a recap of the steps we covered last week. It shouldn't be too hard to pick up, it's just what we call a basic step, a side step, and a right turn. Then when we continue into the rest of the course, we'll get into more complicated stuff and start working on mixing all the moves in together.'
I gave Jerida a nervous sideways glance. Hadn't she told Paul I was only coming in for a week? I was starting to disappoint a lot of people by only turning up to things for one week and then never seeing them again.
We partnered up and went through the steps. It'll be too hard to explain them, so I'll just let you watch this video. It's a little bit repetitive, so feel free to fast forward through a lot of it.
I picked up the basic step straight away. The side step was exactly like the basic step, except - as you can imagine - done from side to side rather than front to back. I picked that up straight away too. The right turn was a bit harder. I kept moving too much horizontally, I couldn't pivot in one spot like in the video. But it wasn't horrendous, so we were able to move on. We were told to partner up and everyone naturally went to the person that they came with. Paul put on some music and we tried doing some of the steps with our partner. Then he paused the music, gave us a few more tips and told us to switch partners. Oh geez, way to make this uncomfortable. I made my way around the room to a girl who I think had been there a few times. I grabbed her hands (or she grabbed mine, I can't remember) and we did the same thing again. I'm sure you've been in a situation like this before. Whether you've been put through dance classes in primary school or high school, or if you taken dance classes yourself... But it's often very, very awkward. I could only half concentrate on the steps because I was too busy trying to figure out where to look. If I was more self-confident, I think I'd just have looked into her eyes, but as it was I could only last a few seconds before it felt creepy, so I would turn to look at the instructors. Then I would look back at the girl. Then I'd find a spot just above her head. No, then she'll know that I'm trying to avoid looking at her... I eventually settled on looking at our feet, to make sure that we were doing the steps right. Um......... okay, maybe that's too long. I'll look back into her eyes again. Oh, that's enough, back to our feet. Finally the music stopped and we were told to switch partners again. I moved around the circle to a girl named Kate, with whom Jerida was good friends. We held hands and started dancing and I was annoyed to realize that she was staring at a spot just above my head. What, did she not like me or something? Why couldn't sh stare at our feet like a normal person? The song finished and we moved back to our original partners. Paul turned from the middle of the room to congratulate me. 'You've already got a great sense of rhythm. You know where the beats are and when to step.' He must have seen my blank expression, because he followed it up with 'You'd be surprised at how many people come in and can't find the rhythm. It actually takes them weeks to pick up. But you've already got that part, so it's easier for you to learn the rest of it.' I didn't quite know how someone could not know where the beat of a song is. I did once hear that when a man gets older, he loses his sense of rhythm as a way of advertising that he's no longer fertile and shouldn't be mated with. So I guess Paul was complimenting me on my fertility. Thanks Paul. The final thing we learned was a move I think he called a crossover. It's where the man basically steps aside and lets the woman step over to where he was a second ago. Then he steps back into place where the woman just was. All without letting go of each other's hands. I'd like to tell you how much trouble I had, because that would have made it more interesting. But unfortunately, I was picking it all up quite easily. I certainly don't think I made it look sexy. But I didn't embarrass myself. And in the end, isn't that all that matters? We made our way around the room again, putting all those things we learned into practice. I found I was getting better at looking into my partner's eyes without feeling weird and so was Kate. I still had a bit of trouble with those right turns though. As I made my way from Kate back to Jerida, Charli came and intercepted me so she could give me some pointers herself. 'Just try and pivot on the spot, otherwise you're stepping too much into the girl. It's like "Woah, hello!"' she said. We tried it out and I ended up making it worse, I was thinking too hard about it (I over-analyse things) and it meant I couldn't keep up with the music anymore. 'That's okay, this one's a fast song,' she said. But could tell she was really thinking "It's okay girls, no need to mate with this one anymore!" The song finished and we all breathed a sigh of relief. Paul congratulated me again on being able to pick up two weeks worth of classes in one and encouraged me that in the next few weeks I'd be able to flip a girl over my head if I wanted to. I realized I still hadn't told him I was only here for one week. What was I going to do? Disappoint him? As I left the hall, ducking past the window so the boardgame players didn't spot me, I thought about all the things I'd done in this challenge up until now and what the point of the challenge was. Jerida said 'I'm coming back, with or without you. I love it.' I sighed and resigned myself to the fact that I'd found it a lot of fun too. 'I guess I'll see you next week,' I said.
This post was part of the monthly Flashback Friday bloghop, where participants dig up an old post that needs to see the light again. I found this one pretty funny, so I brought it back up. In the chronology of my New Experience Challenge, this came a few weeks before last month's post on pole dancing.
If you'd like to take part in this too, it happens on the last Friday of the month. Just join the list below so all the other participants know where to find you.