Salsa, home-style: The fine art of learning Latin dancing without knocking over living room decor
From our series 'How I became a boss at', an account of learning salsa dancing: 'Latin dancing is neither relaxed nor leisurely. But learning it was a fulfilling experience, because instead of being idle, I found my limbs swaying each time a Latin music beat played'
'How I became a boss at...' is a series where individuals tell us about a skill or pursuit they mastered during the coronavirus-related lockdown.
In part 3, learning Latin dancing.
Being stuck at home means that we finally have some time on our hands – work weeks are going by without being stuck in traffic (and whining about it), and the weekends are more forgiving, in the absence of social expectations that require our physical presence.
But this did not take away from the realisation that the lockdown turned my life upside-down. I oscillated between swimming through a whirlpool of emotions because of the pandemic, and the fear of being physically inactive. Being indoors had forced me into moments of stillness.
A close friend who was bothered by physical inactivity in the same way challenged me to an eight-week workout, to burn off bursts of energy. We were as dedicated to this virtual pact as one can possibly be – as evidenced by our post-workout selfies. Once when I was doing my homework for one of these classes, I chanced upon some Latin dance workout sessions on YouTube (the Holy Grail of quarantine hobbies and skills). This motivated me to look at purer forms of Latin social dancing – salsa and merengue.
Full disclosure: This writer did skim through Ballet for Beginners, but she lacks the elegance that it demands. She ended up looking instead like a ripe tomato dangling from a plant.
For starters, you should know that I am as terrible a dancer as anyone with no professional training will be, and as skilled as Indians usually are in the art of Bollywood dance. As a lazy homebody, I took up salsa because I would be able to shake a leg without being obligated to do it in front of others.
With my mother and sister as my reluctant partners, and having to learn the moves of both partners, the beginning was the most challenging. The two weeks that followed were smooth sailing: understanding musical variations, perfecting basic footwork, and the tone and attitude of the style.
The next two weeks were spent teaching my partners – from the basics – while learning and unlearning the previous day’s style. Before I knew it, I was perfecting my adelante and cuadrado. This is definitely not a leisurely or relaxed routine, because it involves a new style of dance, both at cultural and technical levels. Yet it was a fulfilling experience because instead of being idle, I found my limbs swaying each time a Latin music beat played.
For five days a week, when the clock hit 6:30 in the evening, I would jump out of work to meet my new YouTube friends. This routine helped me channel my mental energy and focus it into a skill that I would otherwise have not given a second thought to. Moreover, it was not for the world, but for myself, and it was amazing to see my arms and legs become more toned. Now I understand why people flood Instagram with vainglorious post-dance selfies! The rush from the exercise is through the roof, and instantly gratifying.
But should I be recommending learning salsa all by yourself? It would be a definite affirmative, if sourdough baking, cider brewing, making TikTok videos or picking up French is not your cup of tea. Whatever the skill, the happiness and the sense of fulfillment that comes with it is deeply nourishing. The contentment of having mastered or mildly bettered a skill, and the boost that accompanies ticking it off your quarantine checklist is what you get for going out of your comfort zone, while being at home – your literal comfort zone.
A word of caution, though: Make sure the room where you’re practising isn’t overcrowded with décor and objects, so that you don’t end up knocking over and breaking your mother’s favourite vase while doing that merengue pop or hand swirl!
South Korea in early January stopped issuing most short-term visas at its consulates in China
Hong Kong will scrap its mandatory isolation rule for people infected with COVID-19 starting 30 January as part of its strategy to return the semi-autonomous Chinese city to normalcy
France on Saturday said it had extended until February 15 Covid tests for travellers arriving from China due to the "evolving situation".