Putting Our Hips

Putting our hips into the right beat

Dianne Scott Special to the Star
The Toronto Star 09-08-2007

“You know what I want for my birthday?” I ask my husband.

He looks at me attentively.
“Salsa lessons!” I announce.

It’s not that I am a dance aficionado. Or knowledgeable about Latin music. In my single days, I dropped by a couple of Latin clubs to watch the dancers. The man orchestrates the moves, but the woman is the showpiece. More of a yin-yang partnership than a cat-and- mouse game.

Since then, my marriage, motherhood and career left few opportunities for extraneous activities. But now, with my children in school, I would like to spend more time with my husband.

During our first lesson, we hover around the instructor, hanging on to her every word. When the music begins, Michael and I clump around awkwardly as we try to imitate the basic step Quick-quick- slow, quick-quick-slow.

When the hour is up, the intermediate class enters. The women click by in their high heels and scalloped skirts – a far cry from the denim-and-running-shoes beginner crowd. I stare at their feet. How can they possibly dance in those shoes?

The next week, we learn two new spins. I keep tripping, the floor sticking to the rubber of my shoes. When I get home, I scour my shoe rack. My closet is filled with running shoes and flat sandals. Not a stiletto in sight. I do have a few high-heeled boots and strapless mules, but they are either too clunky or flimsy. I spy my silver wedding shoes peeking out of a shoe pocket. They have smooth soles and an ankle strap. Bingo!

The next week, I slip on my silver shoes and stand up in my black skirt and top. I feel more salsa authentic. And my spins are so much easier, even with the higher heels. I watch the instructor model a new move the copa. Her posture seems so exaggerated, with shoulders back, chest high, stomach in, butt out.

We switch partners for a dance. My new partner moves smoothly, keeping his midsection tight while moving from the hips in true Latino fashion. I try to imitate him, sucking my tummy in, pushing my shoulders back.

“Hey, you got the salsa wiggle,” my husband remarks when I return to dance with him. I smile. We are having fun.

Everything comes to a grinding halt in lesson six.

“We don’t have the beat,” I say to my husband.

“Yes, we do,” he responds.

The instructor makes her way over and interjects “In Latin dancing, the man leads, the woman follows.”

“Even if he has the wrong beat?” I protest.

“Whatever beat the man has, is the right beat,” she responds.

My husband smirks.

“And the man’s job,” the instructor continues, looking at Michael, “is to get the right beat.”

For our next lesson, we call a truce. I follow the tempo my husband sets. So what if we’re a half-beat behind at times? We’re still dancing.

During our last session, we dance avidly for the whole hour, trying all our moves the underarm and shadow turn, the cuddle, the back break, the in-and-out. The instructor walks by, nodding “You have improved.”

Michael and I smile at each other. She is being kind, but we’re grateful for the praise, anyway.

I grab a fall schedule on the way out. Mambo lessons on Wednesday night. Hmmm …

Copyright (c) 2007 Toronto Star. All Rights Reserved.