09 Nov Toronto Salsa Practice
Outside the church, a sign: Toronto Salsa Practice. Wow, hip grinding in a house of worship.
The guy outside informs me I’m early. Mid 50s, he looks like he hasn’t slept in days and his comb over is flapping in the wind. “You joining?” “Ahh, yes, yes I am,” I stammer. “I’ll come back closer to 3:30.”
I go to a bar for a little liquid courage: $5 caesar down the street from St. Paul’s on Bloor and Spadina.
It’s a rainy cold Saturday and I figure few will turn out: maybe just me and Combover.
I return and pay my $5. There’s no lesson, the woman tells me. It’s just dancing for two hours. “Lots of levels,” she continues. The place starts to fill up, and it turns out Combover works for the church–so I will not be dancing with him. Not now, or ever. Shame.
A woman in a tight purple satin skirt and heels is practising alone: twisting her hips and flicking her hair, she’s having a hell of a time with her imaginary partner. I sit on the stage and talk to a woman with short grey hair. “Oh, I’ve been coming for years, you’ll have a ball! And…” She looks over her shoulder as if someone will hear, then moves in closer, “don’t refuse when someone asks you to dance, it’s bad form.” Got it. Dance or die.
The first to ask me is a young–and short– Chinese 20-something. I’m assuming, and quite erroneously, that he’s tame. Not so: dynamo! The kid’s got moves. At one point, after twirling THREE times in a row, I drop my foot to stop. “Whoa man, are you trying to kill me?” I say, laughing.
I don’t even get a chance to sit down when a 50ish black man wearing a page boy hat extends his hand. Back out I go. He’s a beginner, yet he giggles and bows his head when I twirl. Adorable. Shaking my shoulders quickly back and forth, he quietly giggles.
By this time, it’s getting hard not to back into other dancers –the place is packed.
I’m sweating now so I find my purse to get a drink–before I do, a skinny Polish guy stands directly in front of me: dance? No rest for the wicked, I guess. I slug back a sip of water and head back out. This guy’s good: “relax your arms,” he tells me shaking them to loosen me up. I should have drunk more.
My mouth is as dry as cotton. Whipping the sweat from my forehead and thanking my partner, I make my way to my water –eyes down to avoid eye contact. I need this water: I can’t be sucked onto the dance floor again without it. With my back to the dance floor, I guzzle. And guzzle. Until: tap, tap, tap. “Dance?” Frig, I love this place. I’m beating them off with a stick, as mom would say.
Next, this partner is certainly my favourite: a short Peruvian man, about 50, tight black shirt and smelling of Old Spice, fits like a glove. He senses how I move. Chemistry. Not sexual, but our movements match one another. Our sense of timing is the same. I can’t stop smiling. I close my eyes. “Don’t be afraid of your hips!” he says. “Move.”
By this time, an hour has passed and I have not sat out one song. After a few more, I finish the day with an El Salvadoran who offers the best advice, and certainly the best reason to dance: “Stop thinking and just feel the music.”
If you want to go, it’s every Saturday from 3:30 until 5:30 pm. www.torontosalsapractice.com