3 months ago, I started a Salsa course.
In fact it was an unexpected and (supposedly) quick experiment. I had played percussion for some years in my hometown's music band; that was about 10 years ago. So when I saw a short weekend minicourse in a dance school about how to play latin percussion in salsa music, I went in. At the moment, someone I knew was asking me to play percussion in their oh-so-amateurish group, so I thought it could be a quick way to regain some practice and have a go at playing with them.
The percussion course ended up being not too interesting. Like the group anyway. But, that same day I found that a Salsa (on1/linear) crash course was about to start, just after the percussion course. I was already there in the school, with no other plans for the weekend, and the Salsa course would be in fact almost gratis for me. So... why not?
That night there was also the periodic saturday latin party in the dance school (Salsa Libre), which started with a dancing class. So at that moment I had already 3 class hours, and could try dancing (with good advantage!) with other starting people. Two more class hours on sunday, another party on monday...
I was really lucky to find myself in that crash course, because I don't think the effect would have been the same if I had had to wait a month to reach that level (the crash course was 4 hours a week, while a standard course is 1 hour a week). But the way it happened, it was just addictive.
Interestingly, I'm not alone at that. It's funny that when I was beginning to feel guilty about spending too much time in this I started recognizing a number of other people which were popping up in the same courses and schools and parties as me. Others have told me that they also started like that and later began to limit it... Which I will do at some moment too, but for now I'm living out the obsession. So, 3 months, a number of other courses and even a salsa festival later... Madness, I tell you!
And the question that worries me is: why do I like it? what for? I mean, I have been practising Aikido for more than 5 years. There was a sense of purpose there: the personal/spiritual angle, and the practical/objective angle (self-defence, although I'm not sure about how much do I still believe in that).
But, dancing? What for?
Of course, I can look for easy, a posteriori reasonings. It is a good way to meet lots of new people (girls, mainly :). It is a good way to do some exercise. But, the fact is, in these months I have barely really made any new acquaintance - so, so much for the social part of the thing: lots of dances with lots of new people, but that doesn't directly translate into something you could call friends. The exercise part, well, it for sure beats sitting all day long, but it's a bad joke compared to any regular Aikido class.
So, again... what for??
No fucking idea. Yet (I hope). I only know I'm loving it. Maybe it's the surprise/ego boost of being told that I'm actually good at it? (Dangerous!) Lots of people seem to suppose that it's the "spanish blood". Yeah, sure; the blood, and not the years of percussion and of Aikido. Nor trying to practice as much as possible. Some even think that spanish people already have a feeling about how to dance salsa and such. "You are spanish? So you already know how to dance bachata, right?". Like when someone told me recently that he had been to Barcelona and the food wasn't as spicy as expected. It took me some effort to realize he was expecting some tabasco-class thing in Spain...
It also took me some effort to make some people understand that in Spain it's more typical to find flamenco than "latin" dancing. Or so I think anyway, I wasn't into that world when I came to Poland. But interestingly, in the salsa festivals I am seeing lately, there are no spanish teachers; although there are from Portugal, France, Italy, UK, India, Turkey... and South / Central America, of course.
(hm, should I try flamenco? I don't think I like the idea...)
The Aikido thing is another interesting point; what is the relationship? Turns out that all the feeling, the connection with Uke in Aikido is really useful in salsa. But at the beginning I also had to make a conscious effort not to convert some movements into atemis and whatnot. In fact, there are still some figures which make me feel uncomfortable; too close to positions that in Aikido would quickly get painful (and you don't (usually) want the pretty lady with wich you are dancing to scream in pain :). Like some transitions from hammerlock.
Another relationship with salsa, in a negative way: in Cuban salsa, when beginning some enchufla, I was told I was taking too big steps, moving in a strange way when changing places with my partner. I realized I was using some uchi kaiten routine! (Would have been funny to explain the origin of the problem to my partner at the moment. Would she appreciate that I could apply like 3 atemis per enchufla? :D )
Anyway, I guess knowing how to move (in sometimes complicated ways) must have been a plus when dancing. Again, better that than just having been just sitting on my ass, I guess. And another reason why I suspect I like it: I was a walkman addict for much of my life. I was always singing to myself. Having studied music helped, I guess - it made me hate piano and sol-fa, but gave me the basics to later get into violin and percussion and knowing how to reason about a number of things related to music. And well, simply being able to add movement, and to directly feel and follow and interpret the music... feels great.
But there are points here that still get me thinking a lot, and which I hope to be able to explain to myself and write at some moment...
(OMG: Out of unhealthy curiosity, I just tried googling "aikido salsa", and found this. The Horror. The Horror...)