It’s Friday night and I’m looking forward to a few hours of dancing at the regular salsa social in Ottawa. Rahim’s Salsa Fridays is located in the side room of a church in downtown Ottawa, where the only beverage you can purchase is bottled water. You might not expect many people would want to spend their Friday night at a church drinking water, right? Wrong. The place is packed. So packed that at the exits are crowds of people trying to get a bit of reprieve from the heat, and it’s not uncommon to leave with a bruise or two (a tip for the wise, avoid dancing near ladies with stilettos).
As I look around the room, what I notice tho, is not how packed it is. Rather, it is the range of people that salsa or latin dancing attracts.
Dancers come from all ages, countries and religions. I look around and see people from all around the world, many who grew up in Canada, but others that moved here very recently. Despite all of our ‘differences’ the common thread we have is a love for dance.
Salsa is a multi-cultural and multi-age activity, not just in Canada but around the world. I remember in Cuba meeting many europeans, but also dancers from China, Japan, and Australia. Often we couldn’t communicate well verbally, but the dancing was always really good. I found it amazing that people who lived in such different places shared this common interest. I don’t think there are many other activities that attract such a diverse crowd.
So why is salsa (or latin dancing more generally) one of the rare fun social activities that attracts a huge range of people?
- You can pick it up at any age.
- You do not require a partner and by nature of being a social dance, it’s a good way to meet people.
- Dance has no language barriers. You can dance literally anywhere in the world with a salsa venue. I’ve danced in the US, China, Guatemala Spain, Berlin, Brazil and Mexico, you could call me a 'salsa tourist'. Speaking a bit of Spanish has some advantages, but is not a huge factor. It just means you can sing (or mumble) along to your favourite songs.
- Unlike going to a regular club, salsa doesn’t have an overt ‘pick-up’ atmosphere
- And finally, it's because dancing is fun; like exercise without the effort!
So for anyone considering picking up salsa or latin social dancing this year, don’t wait! It is perhaps one of the most open and accepting activities I’ve ever been a part of, and its an activity you can practice almost anywhere in the world. All you need is the courage and interest in trying something new. Really =)
It feels a bit weird to be putting up photos of the united colours of salsa, so I've just added a few pics from Cuban social dancing and our classes. Top to bottom: Emmanuel in a class teaching Sandy and her friends in Havana; a pic from a busy night of social dancing at 1830 in Havana, and lastly, Amado Machado Perez (from Banrara and Baila en Cuba) teaching a casino/timbaton class in Mexico City.