The lineup at the water fountain was longer than usual tonight. Salsa dancing requires frequent gulping. It was the second session of my new dance class, and this time the instructor knew to schedule a break. Perhaps she saw our tongues hanging out, like dogs panting at the end of a good run.
I learned the benefits of dancing long ago. The darkest of moods have dissipated in this world of music and movement, in a room where troubles get dropped off at the door. Not only is a bad mood turned around, but good ones multiply.
Most people already enjoy music of some kind, so you’d think dance classes would be overflowing. This has not been my experience so far. Maybe the real barrier is thinking you need that special Fred Astaire gene to even try. But this is faulty thinking. You don’t have to “look” good. Dancers are much too focused on their own steps, and missteps, to think about yours. Truly, no one is looking at you. Everyone is there to have fun… and to accidentally step on each other or occasionally nick a passing dancer in the ankle. No apologies are necessary because it’s all part of the process.
Although they don’t say it out loud, I suspect people are thinking, “I could never do that!” as they watch professionals and amateurs on TV and on YouTube. Forgetting, of course, that these dancers have spent many years perfecting their sport. It’s always puzzling to me why people feel embarrassed or intimidated to sign up for a class. Do they think they should know how to dance before they learn how to dance? We all have to start someplace when we learn a new sport.
I was sure dance wasn’t for me at first because I didn’t have a partner. But dance classes are structured to include singles, and since my husband has absolutely no interest, I’ve been actively doing it for 12 years. Here’s my list of dance class adventures so far: Waltz, Swing, ChaCha, Salsa, Country TwoStep, Mambo, Nightclub TwoStep, Quickstep, Zydeco, Tango, Blues, Hustle, Contra, Folk, and even Tap once. So fun. And for frosting on the cake, I give myself a very special birthday present every year — two private lessons, back-to-back. (doing salsa here with dance professional Nate Simler in Bellingham WA) If you’re timid about your two left feet at first, using this strategy before signing up for a group class takes the edge off.

I once had an eexperienced teacher who claimed, “If you can walk, you can dance.” Lots of people already feel a rhythm. They feel it whenever they listen to music that catches their ear, and I see it all the time. Heads start bobbing around me, feet tap, and legs start to bounce. They might never have thought about dancing, but their bodies tell a different story.