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Dance is Therapy

Lost at Sea

About five years ago I was struggling with some very heavy personal issues that had me in a very dark place. I was in the process of getting divorced and becoming a single father was no easy task. The days would go by and I would feel the weight of the world fall on me like a slab of concrete I could not push off me as hard as I tried. Although my closest friends were supportive and many were available to hang out to have a beer and get my mind off of how overwhelming everything was becoming. When I would check-in at the end of the night I felt overcome by a sense of loneliness and aimlessness. And the worse thing was that my son sensed desperation in the air. My desperation.

The Beginning of Change

One day while driving late back home from work, I was listening to some old Hector Lavoe Salsa tracks. I was thinking to myself how I have always loved the dancing that comes along with the music but at that time I never graduated beyond the 2 or 3 classes that I took at a Night Club’s ‘Salsa Night’ for the sake of just meeting girls. So that night while driving home I thought to myself self, “why not revisit this Salsa dancing thing again? You have the time and it sure as hell beats sitting at a pub and just drinking while trying to catch the glance of a cute girl sitting nearby – with no real success.” The art of the pick up wasn’t my thing to begin with. Love my homies and the ritual, but at that time I felt like I needed to break out of the same thing every night.

So, I decided to make a stop at a club where I heard they had a Salsa night. At the beginning of the class, you had to step into the line and find a partner. That was a challenge on its own for a shy guy like me. I remember the awkwardness of learning the basic steps: 1,2,3,5,6,7.

“Why don’t they count the 4 and the 8?”

“Oh snap! How do you turn left on count?”

“How do you turn right?”

“Oops! Sorry I didn’t mean to smack you in the head!”

It was a tangled mess – one part embarrassing and somewhat terrorizing and the other super exhilarating. I was actually learning something, and it was something I realized that required all of my mental and physical presence. I liked that. It kept me from ruminating while I was there absorbing what lesson had to offer.

Then the Real Test

After the class, they opened up the floor for the actual dancing to begin. My heart was pounding, and I was paralyzed with fear of asking any lady to dance.

It was intimidating.

I thought they won’t dance with me because I suck. I would leave the club feeling defeated for not having the courage to do ask someone but I thought “You’ll ask someone next time. Just get your basics down” I went back every Salsa night until I built up the courage to ask a girl to dance. “Okay, here it goes…” I nervously approached a young lady and asked her to dance. And to my amazement, She said yes!!

I felt like a junior high kid asking his crush out to dance at the school’s first Sadie Hawkins dance.

Completely goofy looking, elated, along with sweaty palms. I held her hand and walked her to a part of the dance floor. And off we went! I awkwardly danced with her a couple of songs that felt like an amazing eternity at that moment. Looking back at this night’s rite of passage I realized she was a beginner too. There we were busting the basic moves we have learned and mixing a little of our own sauce into the dance to compensate for lack of our ‘dance vocabulary’. Most of the time, we were not even on the beat of the song. Just dancing because we “felt” the music. And then there was me trying to throw in what I thought were sexy subtle moves. I cringe and laugh in retrospect at how we might have looked. Sometimes music does that.

I can imagine the more advanced dancers thinking, “Yep, they just started their journey.” Or maybe perhaps commenting to their friends how they remembered that was them at one time and laugh about it. Or maybe they thought we looked ridiculous trying move to the beat of the Salsa music.

We were still fresh.

Well, I sure as hell was.

After the dances, I bought the young lady a drink, and we chatted for a few minutes and went our own ways. I thought “Okay two songs. That’s it! I’m out!” When I walked out of that club I felt like I was suspended in this crazy sense of complete satisfaction. I was elated!

I did it! Yesssss!

I thought to myself while practically floating back to my car “I’m going learn the HECK out of this dance!” I went back home to my son with a huge smile, and he knew something was pleasantly off. I can sense it was a relief for him to see me happy like this.

It was a life-changing event.

And to this day I still take dance classes, I still dance – I’ve advanced and I’m a much wiser social dancer. Through music and movement, Salsa still manages to pierce through the loneliness.

And it feels great to get home after a night of dancing and shower, tuck my middle-aged butt into bed, and go to sleep with a big goofy smile on my mug.

For me, Dance saved me from my own despair. I’m glad I took action to make a change!

Some Articles on the Benefits of Dancing:

Dancing Reduces Anxiety and Depression in Students

Dancing can reverse the signs of aging in the brain

Some cool dance videos:

Terry Cecile and Magna Gopal

The Father of “On2” Salsa dancing in America – Eddie Torres

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