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Salsa Dance Performances: This S*** is Scary!

This year marks the one year anniversary of my Studio-to-Stage performance groups, and it’s pretty amazing to see how far they’ve come. From five girls in a rented fitness studio on Johns Island late at night to three different levels in my OWN Latin dance studio in Charleston, this program has come a long way. Twenty-something people have gone through the program  and it’s been incredible to see individual’s growth with every session. But what I really want to do is commend these ladies and gentlemen for having the guts to participate in a Salsa dance performance.

            It is utterly terrifying to get in front of your friends, family, peers, and strangers. When you dance, you kind of bare a part of your soul. It’s a little easier tobare your soul when you’re in a room with a bunch of people who are doing the same thing, i.e. on the social dance floor. It’s a lot harder when you’re in front of people you know or don’t know, and you know they are just watching you.

            From a non-performer’s standpoint, it’s easy to watch a performance and to criticize it or pick it apart. Oh, that person was late. Oh, the music selection was weird. Oh, I don’t like their costumes. Oh, it was too long. But what audience members have to remember is that performers are taking a huge risk by putting themselves on stage.

            They could fall. They could mess up. Any number of things can go wrong in a live performance—I’ve seen people puke, have nosebleeds, and break bones on stage.

            Besides physical risks, when someone is onstage, they are making themselves emotionally vulnerable. They are opening themselves up to criticism. They are creating a piece of moving art. They are tapping into some aspect of their emotional self and sharing it with the world.

            And that is scary!

            But the payoff is huge. There’s so much satisfaction that comes with performing. Seeing the progression of a piece rehearsal after rehearsal. Bonding with the your partners in crime in your dance group. Feeling accomplished from learning a piece of choreography and committing it to your muscle memory. Playing dress up in your costumes and make-up.

            And then there is the actual rush of performing itself. It’s like a high…your adrenaline is spiked before the moment you actually step on stage and that spike usually lasts through the performance and beyond. There’s the feeling of stage lights and eyes on your skin—nothing compares to it. And then when you’re done, hearing the applause. Realizing you did it. You performed.

            As soon as the last performance is over, you’re already looking for the next one.

            So despite Salsa dance performances (or any type of performance) being scary, making your heart pound, giving you anxiety and stress dreams before the show, they’re so worth it. You feel alive. You feel powerful. You feel accomplished. You feel wonderful. If performing is on your bucket list, then DO it. Find a place, find a way. You’ll thank yourself.

Thank you to all of my amazing Studio-to-Stagers past and present. This post is for you. I love you guys and I can’t wait for more rounds in the future.

What do you think? Do you perform? Have you experienced this? Or nah? Prefer to stay in the audience? Comment below!

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Salsa Pool Parties: The Great Equalizer of All Salsa Events

I love going to big salsa events because a lot of them have my favorite thing in the world: Salsa Pool Parties. The Orlando Salsa Congress this year had one of the best pool parties I’ve been to ever and to me, Salsa pool parties distill the essence of what is so wonderful about dancing Salsa. People were there with their friends, their husbands, wives, and kids. Music was blaring, the sun was beating down, drinks were pouring. People were barely clothed— bathing suits, cover ups, sunglasses, some flip flops or sandles. But it didn’t matter. Dimpled thighs or six packs, all were welcome. It didn’t matter. Nobody wanted the party to end. I realized that day that I wanted to raise my kids in that kind of environment. Friends and strangers dancing together. 

And the music. 

The music. A bass line hits and it goes deep into the pit of your stomach and all you can do is go “UGHHHH YES.” Then the keys tinkle and the timbales ring out and the clave is holding it all together and you’re up, pulled to the dance floor as if by a magnet. You look around, looking for someone to dance with. It doesn’t matter who— you just HAVE to move to that music, it’s like your life depends on it.

A moment of anxiety— are you going to have to sit this dance out?— and then you feel a gentle tug on your hand and you’re on the dance floor but there’s not really room on the actual floor, so you step onto the poolside concrete and it’s slick with sweat and pool water and God knows what else, but it doesn’t matter. You may be developing a shiny new blister on the bottom of your feet or slowly frying your skin, but who cares when the music is so good and you can just move. It doesn’t matter if your shoes are bedazzled or if you do multiple turns or if you’re even wearing clothes— Salsa Pool Parties are the Great Equalizer at any salsa event.

It’s all about the movement and the music, and the movement feels so good. It feels so natural. Barefoot, sweating, twisting, turning, slick hands sliding across each other, the accidental bump up against another couple who’s lost in the music. To an outsider it might seem sexual, carnal, but it’s not. There’s a level of joy, of loving life and oneself that you feel outside with the sunshine and the breeze and zero stress. There’s not one defining moment to it, but a series of moments that are all beautiful, exciting, energetic, and moving. You are already savoring the memory of that flawlessly executed turn as the next one begins. You feel the way you do after a long day at the beach— you can still feel the waves when you lay down that night. It’s like that after that perfect day of dancing. You can still feel the gentle push pull of a cross body lead or the swing into a turn, the sensation of every part of your body being involved and alive. Activated. Active. Awake. 

You realize that you’re asleep through most of every day. That you don’t feel, that you just think. That you just let your thoughts race and you go through the motions. But on the dance floor, it’s the other way around. You can’t think. You can just feel. 

The song ends and you experience that pang again…is it over? Will this moment ever be recreated? And then someone else asks you to dance, and the whole process is started over again. It’s a new wave. Similar, but it still has it’s own properties. 

And that’s why I love casual Salsa environments, like a pool or beach party. Because the self-consciousness present on an “actual” dance floor isn’t there. It’s just sweaty bodies and amazing music creating some kind of magical alchemy that results in that high, that feeling of loving life, of being carefree, stress free, and truly happy

So…when’s the next Salsa pool party guys??

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