When I first started salsa dancing five years ago, I never could have imagined how it would become such an integral part of my life. Like many of you LDC readers and die-hard salsa addicts, my husband and I spend our entire entertainment budget on dance events. Whenever we go out of town, the first thing we do is look for the salsa community in that area. When we aren’t out at socials, much of our spare time is spent watching dance videos or trying out new moves in our kitchen. Dancing is a major part of our routine, much like working, studying, eating, and sleeping.
It wasn’t always that way, however. It’s sometimes hard to recall life before dance, but I do remember feeling very shy, self-conscious, and most of all, frustrated by all of the things I couldn’t do. I have always been the kind of learner who needs direct instruction. I had grown up with lessons in jazz and tap, so I was used to learning to dance with counts. Where does my left foot need to be on three? Where do I shift my weight on eight? Where do my arms go, exactly, and on which count? All of these worries made me an unfortunately slow learner and ultimately, the dreaded “thinker.” Instructors would often tell me, “Just stop thinking so much!” I would say for the first two or three years, this concept was very difficult for me.
My husband, on the other hand, is a quick study. Mike came into the salsa scene two years after I started. Once he learned how awesome my new dance friends were, he couldn’t resist. At first, he struggled a little bit with the steps. He had grown up watching MTV and learning how to breakdance through a series of rewinding and pausing cassette tapes he had recorded. In case you didn’t know, there’s no “5, 6, 7, 8” in breakdancing. Learning to dance on counts was a bit of a struggle for him, but he caught on really fast—super fast. In fact, I was almost jealous of his ability to adapt and learn. At this point, I had hit a plateau with my salsa dancing and I felt as though I wasn’t improving much; he quickly caught up to me. I’m lucky for that because he constantly motivates me to challenge myself to become the best dancer I can be. I like to think I’m a pretty good dancer now and I’m certainly more confident. I’ve even stopped thinking so much!
It’s a very interesting dynamic being married to my favourite dance partner. When he and I first met at a Dance Dance Revolution tournament when were fourteen years old, we never imagined we would be married and dancing (much better!) thirteen years later. Those who are close to us often say we were meant to dance together. That being said, many of my friends and colleagues are surprised to hear that at any given dance event, he and I spend most of the night dancing with other people. I’m sure many of us have heard these concerns from the non-salsa dancers in our lives: “Isn’t this style of dance really sensual?” “I would never let my spouse/partner dance with someone else like that!” “Don’t you get jealous?”
To those individuals, this is what I have to say:
“Isn’t this style of dance really sensual?”
I love watching my husband dance with other women. There, I said it. Of course, I love dancing with him the most. He’s the best man to dance with and I will always think so. Yet, when I’m not dancing with him (and if I’m not dancing with someone else), I get to watch him. Yes, salsa can be sexy. Bachata is undeniably sensual. And kizomba, well, you dance chest-to-chest, so there really isn’t any question about whether or not you will be connecting with another person. When people ask me this question, my response is always, “So what?” Dancing like this allows us to embrace our sensuality in a beautiful, mutually respectful way. It’s not like I’m watching him grind up on girls at the club. Although…to be honest, he has been known to get down with his bad self during dances to make people laugh. Even some of the men in our little dance community have been struck by Mike’s unstoppable force!
“I would never let my spouse/partner dance with someone else like that!”
First of all, you should never “let” your partner do anything. If you have a strong partnership, you don’t need permission to do the things you enjoy. We are lucky in that we both love dancing as a social activity. I don’t let Mike dance, he chooses to. And when he does, he makes an effort to dance with as many women as possible, whether they are experienced or brand new. I can see their eyes light up when he tries a new move and it makes them look (and feel) beautiful. I can see their smiles from across the room, often accompanied by the sound of laughter when he does something silly to break the tension. I can see the next woman rush over to him when the song is over, eager to be his next partner. Like I said, he’s the best one and I’m obviously not the only person who thinks so. It would be selfish of me to keep him all to myself! I get to watch him dance and think, “That’s right. I’m married to him. I’m a lucky gal.” I guess it helps knowing we always save the last dance of the night for each other, but it honestly doesn’t bother me to see him dancing with other people.
“Don’t you get jealous?”
Jealousy has never impacted me in the way bystanders must think it does. I’ve never felt jealous of another lady at a salsa night. In fact, I love it when the women tell me how much they enjoy dancing with Mike, just like I love it when men tell me, “He’s getting really good! Do you think he would teach me how to do that?” It’s wonderful to know his hard work has paid off and I’m so proud of him. He chooses to attend workshops, watch videos, and share tips with other leads in order to learn as much as he can. He is constantly learning. Incredibly, he can watch a new move once or twice and understand how to execute it. If anything, I get jealous of him and his ability to learn so quickly and go with the flow. On the occasions when I go to an event without him, everyone asks, “Where’s Mike?” with disappointment in their voices. I don’t blame them! I can only hope that in time, I might be as great of a dancer as he is.
I’m not trying to downplay other people’s legitimate feelings. Movies about partner dancing typically show us how the two protagonists can’t help falling in love with one another, but we have to remember that this isn’t reality. Of course it’s understandable to feel upset by seeing your partner getting close to someone else, sharing an intimate moment and sweating together. I’m just saying that dance does not equate sex. It’s a different kind of connection, a human connection different from anything else I’ve ever experienced. During a dance, insecurities fade away and rhythm takes over. Emotions become synchronized with the music and in that moment, nothing else matters. The more I dance, the more I hope other people can shift their perspective and allow themselves to experience this magic. If they happen to experience the magic with my husband, I’m cool with it!