That Time I Tried Salsa Dancing

I didn’t know my hips existed until I took a Zumba/salsa class in Peru.

I mean, I guess I had an inkling that they were there. I’m a pretty clumsy person so as long as I don’t fall down a flight of stairs, I figure everything is doing its job and leave well enough alone. But hips exist in a BIG way here, and when you wiggle ’em a little to the left everything looks just right.

I woke up early for the class and made it to the gym in time to claim a chunk of floor space in an inconspicuous corner—right behind the mirror so I wouldn’t trip but right in front of the weights so I wouldn’t trip anyone else. The dancing started off easy enough, in that there wasn’t any dancing. We stretched for about five minutes.

Needless to say, I was a pro. *shoulder brush*

Then our instructor turned on the music, cranking up the volume until the melody was so loud it hurt. He spun around to face his eager disciples, and his pelvis popped in a way that put Patrick Swayze to shame.

If you’ve ever missed your exit because you were staring at the larger-than-life abs of a hunk selling NEWEST GADGET while zooming down the highway or found your eyes lingering on the cover of a trashy romance novel while you were justlookingforthesciencesectionJEEZE, then you’ve seen my instructor. That man was able to get a whole room of women to twirl and high kick and do bendy things with the flick of a wrist. It was impressive.

Salsa is such a gorgeous, fluid dance, and the people in my class are good-good. I’m not a fan of stereotyping, but I’m pretty sure there’s something in the water here because, dang, all these gals can move!

Needless to say, it was the perfect Latin American cliché.

Then there was me—the perfect norteamericana. I’m a head taller than anyone else in the room. Suddenly, I’m very, very conscious of my sickly pallor. I’ve always made fun of my own whiteness, but dayum! It’s like Captain Crunch and the Trix Bunny decided to get it on, and snap, crackle, POP—a gringa was born.

Then there’s this thing called “undulating.” I won a writing award by using the word in sixth grade. Low bar for success, I know, but I’ve been oh-so proud of my mad skillz ever since. Unfortunately, in Latin America “undulating” isn’t word, it’s a concept, and knowing the definition in my head was NOT helping when it came to my hips.

Needless to say, white girl CAN’T dance.

Then a miracle happened. My dance instructor hunkered down over the playlist for a tad longer than normal. When he stepped away, I recognized the song. All those late nights practicing in front of the mirror came right back to me.

Soulja Boy exploded from the speakers, and I killed it for three, glorious, glorious minutes. While these brilliant dancers balked at hopping around on one foot and waving their hands in the air, I had already mastered what every frat boy can do in a drunken stupor. (Thanks WikiHow!) It was amazing.

Needless to say, I’m going back again next week!