I have always been a lover of dance. I was the one who borrowed dvds of ballet performances from the library to watch on the weekends, the first to sign up for dances bretonnes at the lycée and the quickest to pick up the steps, the one who hunted for the Fest Noz fliers, and the one who calls up the others for Sunday night salsa at Havanna. I especially love the kinds of dances that require you to understand something about how they work and how one works with another in order to dance them well (as opposed to individual freestyle jiggling such as can be found in hip-hop).
I took up salsa this past year by chance. I was invited to a salsa club only five minutes away from my flat back in December, and from then on, I used to go fairly regularly and it has become a part of my life.
Which was why I decided to venture out into the big valley of silicon last Thursday evening to try out salsa on my home turf.
At Alberto’s in Mountain View, on Thursday nights, they have a beginner’s class followed by an intermediate class and a dance party, all for the same $10 entrance fee. There was an incredible number of people, and I was surprised by the factor of men outnumbering the women. There was no need for a partner; the women made up an inner circle and the men fought their way in to dance each time the instructor cried ‘switch!’
Still, I couldn’t help but notice a few things:
In France, when my friend and I would go out dancing, we always tried to maintain the ‘three-dance’ policy, which stated that one should not dance more than three times with the same guy. The consequences of breaking this rule usually fall along the lines of the guy trying to buy you a drink and shouting over the din, “whaddya say we get outta here?”
In Germany, you never dance more than three times with a guy in the same set (in a row), but you may dance again with him later in the evening without fear of being hit on. But you should never dance only once with a guy if you enjoy it: leaving the guy (or him leaving you) after one dance means that the dancing was terrible for one or both of you, and you will probably not be asked again. Also, it is best not to ask a guy to dance unless you have seen him dance before. This is because you run the risk of his saying yes only to hit on you, and wind up looking like idiots on the dance floor because he really has no idea what he is doing.
In the East Bay, you may ask a guy (which seems to be the best strategy) if he does not ask you, but you only dance once in a set. You can dance with him again during the evening, but here, the three-dance rule applies. It is also quite nice to dance in California as we have smoke-free bars, which makes it a lot less sleazy and you don’t have to go home with cigarette-scented hair.
In two weeks I will drive down to San Diego for their first annual salsa festival, and I am looking forward to it, armed as I am now with these little hints.