Salsa. A rhythmic movement of one’s body to a latin beat based on a basic three step count. Salsa is not for the faint of heart. And when I say basic its not really basic to all. Salsa for me has become an addiction, more than just a passage of time that affords me a few burnt calories. It is now a passion, something way beyond my control. I once found myself heading down to the local Nairobi Sunday salsa night at 8pm…with an exam the next day at 9am I might add. I couldn’t concentrate so I said “what the heck, how many exams have I already sat for??” I was gonna be ok! Can’t remember what I got in that paper but it sure wasn’t easy.
The salsa craze all began back in the day when I was learning hip-hop in DITTO. DITTO stands for Disciples in True Trinity Order and was a dance group based in NPC valley road for close to 7 years. I thank God for their contribution to my life because they shaped me at a very formidable time. Now these guys danced all manner of genres, from kwaito to expressive, so salsa did end up being one of the things I was taught. They started me on the absolutely basic steps and then shelved the rest of the lessons because I had learned all I needed to get us through a performance.
2 years later, having joined campus and kind of put a pause on my dancing (except for the video my sis, Lizz, found of me doing my thing one day when I was playing around which she immediately uploaded to Youtube here, I happened upon the local Sunday Salsa social gathering. It happens at a place called Heartz on Moi avenue. As I watched the ladies turn and twist on the floor I was shocked, how?? So there was more to salsa after all than just a few basic moves I’d been taught in the beginning…a lot more. I didn’t understand how 2 people cld be doing very different things yet dancing in harmony. I had to learn! And so it begun. At first obviously I wasn’t any good because of my 2 year hiatus and my lack of partnering skills. I was a diehard because the only way to learn coupling is to actually dance with a partner. Being a natural dancer I pulled this off but a friend called J.P who I met at Heartz invited me to their practice sessions in Makadara. 1 month later I was rocking the dance floor cause all he did was show me the stuff you can’t teach yourself. And thus it continued this love of the dance. When I realized people didn’t mind dancing with me it really bolstered my self esteem. I’d avail myself most Sundays to “practice” while having fun. I have somewhat a natural flair for motion. I blame it on my mama 🙂 After awhile I got better and better and hey presto, I was dancing with one of the professional performing teams.
Here in Gemany I’ve only gone for salsa once and I happened upon it by chance one Sunday evening when I was walking in search of a certain concert venue. Check in stage right and scope the place, the dance floor was packed then it hit me-Language barrier pap! How was I supposed to ask for a dance in German??…and would I be able to flow with whoever I asked to dance? I stood out like Lebron James would in a bunch of short Asians but I finally did get the courage to ask someone to dance…. and it sucked! He was this creepy short guy who had no dance etiquette so I swiftly moved on to someone else after the song finished. Now the next guy was good. Not in the moves he was doing because they were pretty basic but just in the fact that I had not danced for months and he was definitely better than Mr. Creep(y). The music the Dj was playing was really beautiful, nothing I’ve ever heard before. It was On 2 music and I love on 2 salsa, only bummer was there was no one dancing on 2 😦 but there were quite some good couples sweating it out on the floor.
The difference between the Kenyan salsa scene and the German one is that we Kenyans are all about flair and complexity wanting to shine on the floor. This is awesome because as Africans we have a rhythm that we absolutely make use of-hearing the music comes naturally to us and thus its easy for us to make it look good. I will never take that for granted again because there is a certain lack of rhythm in some of the really good dancers here. Thus it makes the dance look awkward cause it doesn’t flow as it should with the music. The Germans are different in that it takes them ages to advance to an intermediate level. But (apart from the high possibility of having 2 left feet) it is because of their attention to detail. The cues are all as they should be and I had minimal problems following their lead. Oh yeah, and Kenyan styling rocks-our ladies are pretty good. I observed and compared.
The thing about salsa, just like any other skill, the possibility of getting cocky about your knowledge is very high. This is something I hate when I see. So you dance well, doesn’t mean you have to act all snobbish about it and refuse to dance with some of the less skilled peoples at the venue you know! My worst fear is actually becoming what I see some of us already have-cocky. Modesty becomes the tiniest of persons. I think it’s a virtue that could take one far. From modesty about one’s wealth to modesty about one’s beauty/appearance. Before we became whatever we are in life someone had to spend their time teaching/training/ helping us get there. With dance, before you become really good you need to be taught by someone really good. So if your good at what you do pass on the skill to someone, make their day.