I could hear the Cuban music as I climbed to the top floor of the Byre, already a few early arrivals were congregated around the doors into the studio. Peering into the dark, musical space revealed that the curtains had been pulled back to expose a wall of mirrors and the chairs moved to create a large square space. It was starting to feel like summer and the influence of an uncharacteristically warm day had the space full of anticipation. I ran into a few friends who were just as eager as I to get started. Shortly 30+ people gathered in the room and once everyone was settled the music was turned down and the workshop introduced. Hosted by the Hispanic society they gave a short introduction as to what would happen.
We gathered into a large circle from which we started with the Merengue. Hailing from the Dominican Republic it consists of a very simple 1,2 step. Like when you shift your weight whilst waiting in line for something, imagine doing this but on your toes and to music. Your hips will move and if you feel the rhythm, which was the aim of this first exercise. Soon enough everyone was united in the shifting step and the movement seemed to take over the room.
From the first exercise it was evident that there were a few seasoned dancers in the group, the majority hadn’t danced before but it didn’t matter, from the width of smiles and giggles everyone knew it was to let off some steam and get into the summery, latin groove.
The dancers that led the rest took their time and allowed everyone to adjust to the movements and steps. Building up from the rhythm, next on the agenda was getting to grips with the steps and turns. Swapping partners and dancing around the space started to build the heat in the room.
Just after halfway through the workshop the next style of Latin dance was introduced, salsa. Salsa is from Cuba and Puerto Rico and is the style you will see more often in dance movies or competitions, such as Dance with Me 1998 and Cuban Fury 2014, which I can definitely recommend; funny, lighthearted and gets you in the mood for dancing.
Due to my mother being a Latin dancing champion when she was younger I felt I already had a grip of the movement and personally found the salsa more comfortable as it’s more of a continuous movement and once you know the steps it’s hard not to let it flow. Watching others there was a degree of confusion between the two styles but they had plenty of help. The only straight faces were those on the people really concentrating. Latin is hard if you don’t feel the rhythm, but by the end, if people got it or not, everyone danced around the room and moved to the music, sweating, smiling and laughing.
Not only is latin dancing a workout, it is wonderfully social and once you know a set of moves you can throw them in with the basics steps in a spontaneous manner so there is no rigid routine.
Apparently they didn’t offer salsa lessons this year because they feared there wouldn’t be enough people interested, after the response I heard, I dare say they won’t have that problem next year. With the prospect of a salsa night in the Vic, I can honestly say I very much look forward to it, and I’m sure the 30+ people at the workshop today would agree.
They continued dancing past the hour and a half and along with the others it had really gotten us in the mood for some sweet, spicy food and a cool Desperado’s. Scooping up my heels, I headed out with the majority while a few continued to dance and the music of Cuba drifted out into the warm afternoon.
If anyone is interested in giving it a go or just wants to see what is on offer here in St. Andrews, check out our two current dance societies: Latin American Ballroom with the BALLADS society and Argentine Tango with STARRTANGO and hopefully next semester, Salsa.