When I think of salsa, a vibrant image of Ben Stiller redeeming a rom-com with his latino groove pops into my head. So it was a little disappointing that, with his striped shirt and partly-popped collar, our salsa teacher didn’t quite deliver. I know he’s got it in him – he’s been salsa-ing for 17 years, but maybe he’s saving it for later.
So walking through the snow (not collecting coal from the railway tracks but close) to get to the Latin Dance Academy, I had high hopes for my first salsa lesson. A not-very-well-sign-posted academy clung to the barren street behind the Chalk Farm tube station. I entered to find tressle tables set out and a buzz of people signing in for ‘week 1’. The LDA run all courses for 4 weeks; so no drop ins.
Once inside, around 30 old and young folk stuck to the walls of the hall like a school disco until our charistmatic teacher entered the room. He warmed us up with a merengue, asking us to find a partner.
Now it’s worth mentioning that with all the salsa clubs popping up around London in the last few years, there’s a preconceived notion that latin dancing is a way of meeting sexy men. This is very wrong. In fact, you’re more likely to hear ‘Show me your t*ts’ than ‘show me your paso doble.’
So when we were asked to find a partner, the men who’d reluctantly been dragged there with their girlfriends quickly coupled up, and from behind me I heard ‘Yoohoo, guess we’re together then!’ I tentatively pivoted (sorry, dancing term) around to see a brightly smiling and incredibly annoying girl. ‘And you’re tall, so you can be the man’ she added. Wow.
I smiled through my teeth and got into position, and then remained there as the ‘men’ held fast and the ‘women’ moved around the circle after each iteration of our four basics steps.
So not the best start, but an icebreaker of sorts and our friendly teacher moved on to the main attraction. I found the first set of steps we learnt fairly basic, but I have done some latin dancing in the past and the beginning steps are very similar. But we’re assured that by week 4 we’ll be hip and shoulder rolling our way through whole songs so I’m excited about learning more as one lesson in this instance would not be enough.
If when the first thing you think of when you hear Salsa is Nachos (Olã!), it’s time to get yourself down to lessons. But don’t do it for any reason but the pure joy of having a framework to let loose with a latin rythm pounding in your ears.
- Cost – £-££ (depending on group or private)
- Energy – Mild to being with – but watching a few videos of what’s to come I can imagine getting a good cardio session in once we’ve learnt all the moves and pick up the pace.
- Sociability – In a partner dance whether you want to be social or not you’ll end up speaking to people so more social when compared with street dancing.
- Equipment needed – despite what you’d expect, high heels (for ladies) are not ideal, at least until you can handle yourself properly. There are a lot of pivot turns which could get a bit painful in the wrong shoes. Also the reason why trainers should be avoided – they’re built for grip.
Want to give it a go?
LDA run classes for £35 for four weeks, or two dances (x4 lessons) at £55. Other single classes range from £8-15 per class. A few other options below, untested: