It has been over a year now that I’ve been consistently salsa dancing, and while I have noticed improvements in my learning the dance, I’ve also noticed improvements spread across other aspects of my life. At this point in my journey, I wanted to express the different reasons why I love it. So many people can get stuck on the fact that salsa dancing involves a man dancing closely with a woman, but it goes so far beyond that logistical fact. Now, by no means am I saying that I am an expert on salsa dancing. I am simply expressing my thoughts and observations on how salsa dancing has improved my life.
1) I am part of a community.
There are salsa communities in all cities, and it’s so fun to become part of a new group, full of people who enjoy the same activity. As with any new experience, it can become quite addicting, and you know you’re addiction is not lost on fellow salsa dancers. When I first started dancing, I could not find any friends who wanted to go out as much as I wanted to. I decided that I just needed to go by myself, knowing that I would eventually meet more people. The more people I met, the greater the chances I would know someone when I went out. I began to notice the same dancers at each location, and eventually I started to make connections.
2) It stretches my comfort zones.
As I just mentioned, I started going out dancing by myself… alone. I would NEVER have done that in any other circumstance. I was way too shy and too much of an introvert to put myself in new situations. However, I knew that I could not be my own barrier from pursuing my new found passion. I had to go out, and I had to do it as much as possible, until it became comfortable for me. I recently accompanied my husband on a work conference to Seattle, and spent most of the time exploring on my own. On our last night, I felt the urge to go dancing. I found a local dance studio that hosted salsa dancing every thursday night, and I made a commitment to myself to go. I was extremely nervous, and thought about not going a couple of times. Not only was I in a new city, but I would know absolutely no one. I knew there had to be a community of dancers though, and that I had nothing to lose. I ended up having an amazing time and met some really nice people… and I have to admit, I’m pretty damn proud of myself for putting myself in such a new situation.
3) It is the epitome of the male/female dynamic.
There is an exchange of energy between the male lead, and female follower, that is palpable. Now, this does not mean it is a sexual exchange. It’s more along the lines of “I see you. Right here, right now.” It was awkward at first to partake in that type of exchange, but the more comfortable I became with my newly awakened feminine essence and my sexiness (I said it! I can be sexy!), the more I realized it was a gift to be acknowledged as the feminine being that I am.
4) I learn to let go of my ego.
Salsa dancing requires certain steps. It’s not something that can be faked. You really need to become dedicated to learning the dance style in order to improve. For a long time, I was so worried about messing up the moves. I didn’t want the lead to become frustrated with me because I didn’t understand what he was wanting me to do. I did (and still do) mess up quite a bit, but I can’t say that I’ve ever noticed a sense of frustration from the leads I’ve danced with. The salsa community is very forgiving, and ya know what? As much as I am worried about messing up, I am sure the guy is just as worried about him messing up as well. We need to understand that it’s not all about us, but our partners come to the dance floor with their own insecurities. We all screw up, and it’s okay. The reason I continue to go salsa dancing is because it’s so freaking fun! So that’s what I focus on when I go out – the fun. I dance, I smile, I laugh… I miss turns, I fall off balance, I laugh… It’s all about the experience… and it’s Just. So. Joyous.
5) It builds confidence.
I was surprised to notice that as I built up confidence on the dance floor, my confidence overflowed into other areas of my life. It may go back to that male/female energy exchange. To be seen and appreciated builds up an inner confidence and self worth. It’s not every day that we express our appreciation for the people in our lives, and the folks I’ve met salsa dancing (both men and women) are so sweet and encouraging. From the exchange of smiles the partners give while dancing, to the hugs upon meeting at the start of the night, after each dance and when you say good-bye, you can’t help but feel part of something greater. It has made me want to share those feelings with others throughout my daily life. If I am happy to see you, I will tell you. If I want to give you a hug, you’re getting a hug. I am not so worried about how I am perceived anymore because I know that the moment is transient. I am here to have fun, to be happy, and to share my joy with others.
6) The dance floor exudes happiness.
People go salsa dancing because they love to dance. There are often times where I observe the people on the dance floor and simply smile. I can feel the dancers’ energy and delight, and it is such an honor to witness. I can’t help but soak some of that energy in.
7) I learn to let go of control.
This can be tricky for women who like to be in control, but in this situation, I’d say that through the giving up of control, you are experiencing liberation. It’s okay to let someone else take the lead, because you know what? You are the one who gets to shine! It’s the guy’s job to make the lady look good. I don’t need to worry about what moves to lead, how to transition from one move to the next, or how much space is around us. I just show up and do my thang.
8) It improves my reflexes.
As a follower, you need to follow the lead’s cues. Each lead is different in the strength of his cues. There are “hard leads” and “soft leads” and it always takes me a bit of an adjustment period when dancing with someone for the first time. Some leads barely turn their wrist to indicate a turn, while others nearly push you into it. In salsa dancing, you need to be on the beat, which means you only have so much time to respond to the lead’s cue in order to end the move at the right time. The lighter I am on my feet, the more apt I am able to respond correctly. Other times, I totally miss the cue, laugh, and then catch up to the beat. Ya know, sometimes I just don’t feel like doing a turn at that particular moment in time… oopsies!
9) It teaches me to be in the moment.
When I dance, I need to turn off my brain. I can’t be thinking about tasks on my to-do list or what I’m going to eat at my next meal (a near constant thought for me). I need to completely empty my mind, focus on the music and on my partner. I can’t think and react at the same time… it just doesn’t work that way for me. I have learned that if I anticipate what’s coming next, I’m more than likely going to totally screw up. By keeping an open mind and staying engaged in the dance, I wind up having a much nicer experience over all.
10) I know that sweat is a-ok!
Salsa dancing is a very physical activity, and it’s often done in tight quarters due to the number of dancers around. We all become a sweaty mess, and it’s totally acceptable! People’s shirts are soaked through, sweat is flying off foreheads (even landing on other dancers), and we know it’s simply par for the course. Just wipe it off and move along. In this situation, I just say what my grandma, Mimi, used to say… “Women don’t sweat, we glisten.”
11) It’s great exercise.
Dancing for 2-3 hours is such a great form of cardio exercise. I have often found myself forcing myself to go home because I can’t physically continue. I imagine It’s quite amusing to watch me stumble through the door at home and awkwardly make my way up the stairs. You’d think I was drunk, but no… my legs are just so tired that I have lost all sense of balance.
I’ll venture to say that many of these results can be derived from other forms of dance or new social activities. I can only speak to what I know, and the only thing left to say is this; go out and experience this great big world of ours!! Don’t let yourself be the one to hold you back from growing your memories. It can be super scary and crazily awkward, but no matter what the results are, you will have learned something.
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