While Cali, also in Colombia, is known as the World Capital of Salsa, the truth is that quite a lot of Bogotanos will promptly challenge that perception, claiming that Bogotá is actually the city that holds that standing.
This is not surprising, since Bogotanos do love to party and to dance – namely to dance Salsa. Ah, Salsa, that beautiful Latin dance that sounds so good, looks so simple, and feels so exciting… Yes, learning how to dance Salsa, and going to a Salsa Club in Colombia’s capital, is part of the experience of living here, or visiting Bogotá.
So there you go. Full of your best intentions, and wanting to immerse in the local culture, you take some Salsa lessons and you feel great about it. In that safe environment with your Salsa teacher, you actually grow to believe that you’re doing it well. After all, it’s all about the steps. 1-2-3 to the right, 1-2-3 to the left, and the same moving forward and backwards. Simple, right? Plus, your Salsa teacher will encourage you, and tell you that you’re already doing it great… for a foreigner (and that’s where the problem lies, and we’ll get there in a second).
So from there you take the next step. You go to the proverbial Salsa Club, and you feel ready to put on a show and enjoy your recently-acquired Salsa skills, hopefully impressing your Colombian date, spouse and/or friends.
And this is where an expected beautiful night turns ugly. First of all, you see the ‘Salseros’ (Colombians who love Salsa and really know how to dance it) in their natural environment. From the youngest to the oldest, in every possible style, they’re the ones doing it like it should be done. And that’s when the first feelings of intimidation being to take over you. After all, you know that you can’t do it like they do it.
Still, undeterred by their performance, you think to yourself, “I’m only a foreigner and I’m not expected to dance like them, so it’s OK. Plus, my Salsa teacher told me I was doing great, so I’ll be fine”. And there you go. You start dancing, and you do your 1-2-3 routine. You think you’re following the rhythm, but you’re not. You’re technically focused on the steps – and that’s the problem. Your 1-2-3 routine is just the mechanical Gringo way of dancing Salsa – and, in only a few seconds, you realize that this is just not good enough.
People move around, dancing as if they’ve done it right from their birth (and chances are that they have), with a flow that you can’t keep up with, but your good intentions keep you on the dance floor, repeating the 1-2-3 routine. That’s when your Colombian dance partner can no longer sustain the damage on her feet that your mechanical 1-2-3 is accidentally causing. That’s also when your Colombian partner gets frustrated, unleashes her full “Colombian-ness” that you love so much, and starts doing what everyone else is doing: dancing Salsa the way it should be, in the process striking that fatal blow of intimidation that makes you take the last 1-2-3 steps: towards the table, where you sit, drown your shame in a life-saving drink, and enjoy the party from where it’s safer for your self-esteem: right from where you’re sitting.
Hey, at least you were brave enough to face Bogotá’s Salsa Challenge – and that’s not an easy thing to do.
Plus, you can enjoy the comfort of knowing that, back home, in the country where you come from, those mechanical 1-2-3 moves that made you look bad in Bogotá will always be killer dance moves in any club in your town that’ll make you look like the start of any party.
Written by: Miggy, check out his site for more from him.