I’ve been reading the blog Solo Lisa for a good long time now, and it never fails to impress me. Lisa strikes me as an incredibly smart, savvy, chic, modern woman who knows what she wants and doesn’t wait for an invitation to run out and grab it. She is colossally busy, yet manages to cook up insightful and entertaining posts on a daily basis. Essentially, we’re talking about a powerhouse here.
One of the things I’ve learned from Lisa’s comments on MY body image posts, is that she is an avid salsa dancer, and never feels more fabulous about her bod than when she’s moving to the music. So I asked her to write a little about the connection between salsa and self-love, and boy did she ever deliver!
Before I began dancing salsa four or five years ago, I’d never been very keen on exercise. I blame my high school PE curriculum for breeding this dread in me: It stressed throwing, catching, and/or running after a ball in some variation or another (basketball, volleyball, soccer…you catch my drift) – none of which I was very good at or particularly enjoyed. I began to think, “If this is what physical activity is, it’s not meant for me. I’m a brain, not an athlete.” I took refuge in my books and patiently counted down the days until mandatory PE was over.
One day, I saw “Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights” and developed a huge crush on the lead actor Diego Luna (a crush that is still going strong today). The film and the idea of Latin dance never left my head, and by the time summer was over and third-year university classes began, I knew I wanted to learn how to salsa. I signed up for deeply discounted lessons with one of my university’s dance clubs.
The first lesson had me hooked, and since then salsa has never let me out of its rhythmic, vibrant grasp. I still can’t believe how much more fun it is than any other form of exercise I’ve ever tried. You meet new friends at lessons and clubs and dance socials. You get to dress up in cute tops and skirts and dresses and buy pretty, open-toed ballroom shoes. Your social life suddenly goes into overdrive because you’re going out dancing two, three, even four times per week. You’re introduced to a whole new genre of music – Latin music – and what wonderful, upbeat, exuberant music it is!
The physical benefits of dance are obvious. When I started taking more classes and joined an amateur performance team in my second year of dancing, I noticed that I was developing muscle tone and strength. Perhaps more important, though, was how salsa improved my relationship with my body and made me more open-minded about physical activity. I could keep myself in shape and take care of my body without running after a stupid ball after all! I also began to cherish my body for what it could do rather than what it was. Sure, my stomach sticks out a bit and my calf muscles are huge, but my body is stronger and healthier than ever. It’s a body that can land a double spin, master a piece of choreographed footwork for a shine solo, and follow the leads of seasoned dancers, earning surprised looks of admiration at my ability.
I began salsa hoping to gain a skill, and looking back I realize I’ve gained a world. Twice weekly dance sessions, the people I’ve met and the new friends I’ve made, the physical benefits to be reaped, the way salsa gives me a way to de-stress and let loose after work—every aspect of my life has been enriched by it. If you’re even thinking of doing dance classes I say go for it, but be prepared: The rhythm is going to get you and you’ll be hooked, guaranteed.
Thanks, Lisa, for a fantastic guest post! Please be sure to add Solo Lisa to your daily reads, if it isn’t among them already.