I couldn’t leave Cuba without an adventure in rueda! The first time I ever danced in a rueda was in Havana many years ago – and it came as a complete surprise. At the time, I had no idea this whirling, exhilarating, joyful formation existed!
On this trip, I joined an advanced group of dancers and we performed for the crowd at Mil Ocho (the site of my big challenge in Episode 3). This experience was ALL about laughter, fun and NO pressure!
A dance journey in Cuba is not complete without an exploration of RUMBA! This Afro-Cuban dance is rhythmic and complex, and actually has three distinct styles.
Episode 4 of Follow My Lead: Havana focuses on the sensual, flirtatious and bold “guaguancó” style.
I wanted to learn it because:
1) If you really want to dance salsa with the best in Cuba – you HAVE to know guaguancó. Many salsa songs mix in rumba rhythms and very often leaders like to add it to their partner dancing in various ways. If your partner starts doing guaguancó, you can’t just continue with salsa steps. (Well, not if you want to be any good.)
2) As much as I’m passionate about mastering salsa dancing in Cuba in all its forms, it’s equally important to me that I gain more knowledge and appreciation of the powerful influence of the island’s African roots on its dance and music culture. Rumba is an essential part of that educational pursuit.
I’m at the beginning of my journey studying rumba. And as you’ll see in the episode, it was quite complicated for me for many reasons! But I hope to give you a sense of my learning experience in order to spark YOUR curiosity and passion to learn more 🙂
More often than not, when I go out salsa dancing, I have a blast.
But last night, I felt “off”. As soon as I stepped on the dance floor I sensed it.The floor seemed slippery and I felt unsteady on my feet.
One problem was that I didn’t really click with my partners. I felt a bit unbalanced and they felt rough in their leads. Complicated moves, which I can often follow very smoothly, were requiring immense concentration. I felt like I had to think a lot.
I watched other women dance and so many of them were dancing effortlessly and improvising with the music. One woman was killing it while wearing little glasses perched on her nose! (How was she doing that without them flying off?!)
Usually, salsa is a blissful combination of focus and surrender. Last night just felt like tiring work. I was barely noticing the music and certainly wasn’t having tons of fun.
I came home sweaty and tired, but feeling bummed out rather than tingling with joy.
I’m still feeling it today and I know I need to shake it off. Here are the steps I’ve come up with:
Chill. Everyone has a bad night. Just because I wasn’t dancing my best doesn’t mean that I’m the clumsiest, unsexiest, uncoordinated dancer in the world. I was just off. It happens and it’ll happen again. But I’ll still have “on” nights too.
Physical exhaustion makes for sub-par dancing. I was pretty tired and thought I’d get a second wind (it was 9:30 pm on a work night, after all!) I downed some Pepsi before starting, but I don’t think I really had the physical energy I needed to be on my game.
Sometimes dance partners don’t match. I really wasn’t feeling much chemistry with my dance partners. Some were too goofy, some were too rough, some were too soft. It’s nothing against them, it just wasn’t clicking. In a partner dance like salsa, chemistry is crucial.
Rest and then get back on the horse. My dancing confidence is pretty low right now, but I know I need to keep trying to feel good again. Tomorrow night is another salsa night at a club that I haven’t tried before. There’s a lesson and a new crowd of dancers to get to know. I’ll rest my body, warm up with a lesson and then approach it with an open mind.
Enjoy life as a dance student. I’ve been salsa dancing on and off for 10 years, but I still haven’t reached the advanced level that I’d like to be at. I see other dancers and get frustrated and jealous because I’m still messing up, dancing sloppy or having off nights (which I assume they never have!). But I think it would be helpful for me to shift my perspective and try to enjoy the process of getting better, realizing areas for improvement and then learning more.
Has this ever happened to you – either with dancing or something else that you’re really good at and usually brings you relaxation and joy? How do you bounce back from an “off night”?