Last night was the second time in two weeks I've gone out dancing. Tres extravagant. But if I go too long without salsa I feel . . .couped up? Like my inner rumba needs to leak out. Last night, I went local to a place I haven't been to before but is only 2 miles from my house. I took my Most Rad Neighbor Molly who is a veggie/healthy chef by profession. She had never danced salsa before, but she enthusiastically agreed to take the lesson given at the club before it popped off. I sat in the wings and watched her do awesomely as I drank a giant coconut mojito served to me in a silo. I had to hold it with two hands. It was delicious.
A short woman in a corset top sat next to me as I watched Molly, and then god reached down and flipped the On switch to the woman's mouth. She crammed so much information into the remaining 20 minutes of the lesson that my head is still spinning with her words, and accent. She was visiting from Australia. She had an aboriginal tint to her, a mix maybe, but that's about the only thing she didn't talk about. She was in town for the LA Salsa Conference. She's a teacher of the salsa back home and yammer-yammer-yammer about life as a dancer and the philosophies of scoping out the good dancers in the club, pre-dancing. My personal philosophy is that the older dancers are usually pretty good. And if you come in to a club wearing a hat, specifically a fedora, you better know how to dance. And if you're wearing white shoes or old-timey white and black or white and brown oxfords, you better know how to dance. I was unconvinced about the Aussie Dancer's skills, but she was very likable. Oh, and we have this line of cosmetics here in the states called MAC -- "yes, I've heard of it" -- and it's about 50% less here and she's maxed out her credit card because of that -- oh, and because we have the best salsa dresses here too. I thought, we do? Where? She wasn't wearing one of them, but her corset top was cute.
The lesson ended and I was thrilled about Molly's potential as a dancer and salsa buddy. She breathlessly came off the dance floor with wide eyes and said, "I want to take as many lessons as it takes to become really good." I nodded, "Ah, the bug has bitten you quickly, Grasshopper." Throughout the course of the night I would tell her who to ask to dance because you don't get better unless you just get out there and dance. The older, seasoned gentlemen are the best teachers and they enjoy putting in a little pro bono work on the dance floor.
The club was small and sweaty. It filled up fast, packed to the edges. The band blared a great horn section and cracked a nice timbal, and they shared the dance floor too since there was no stage. The dancers were ok. Some were good, but most were ok. The Aussie Dancer was ok; not bad, but not as great as all the talk would lead you to believe.
My favorite partner of the night was a Cuban cat who was in his early 30's. Tall, white-skinned, dark goatee, handsome with a clouded right eye. I didn't notice this until mid dance -- that the eye didn't work -- because his flamboyant style distracted me. I must say I love a skilled, theatrical dancer. He was over the top and seemed from a different era. He tapped on-lookers with the back of his hand while laughing and dancing. He'd freeze and pose, keeping time with his knee; showing off relentlessly and working moves that showed me off too. We danced next to the band and they nodded our way and he would laugh and point to them like he knew them, but now I doubt he really did. If Ok Dancers would move into our space, inevitably because of the crammed dance floor, he'd push them back with a wide sweep of his hand and yell, not angrily, but still theatrically in Spanish, "Watch out, man. Watch it." I loved this especially because Ok Dancers will pile drive you into a pole because of their cluelessness. But a real dancer is always aware of space and they glide their partners into openings, no matter how small, and they don't let her get hit or stepped on.
Molly and I left before midnight, drenched and laughing. We spilled out onto the 3rd Street Promenade still talking in club voices so that they echoed off the cobbled walkway. She was dizzy because she danced with an Ok Dancer that knew decent turns, but poor Molly doesn't know how to turn well yet. I gave her pointers in the street next to the promenade trees that are lit with tiny periwinkle lights that have been strung since Christmas. Near the parking lot, I reenacted my first time dancing Lambada about 20 years ago or whenever the Forbidden Dance first came out, and our laughs ran down the alley and out onto Wilshire Boulevard.