Whoever it was that said ‘try everything once, except folk dancing and incest,’ had a good point, but seemed to have missed a couple of points. In the middle of the week, and with no sign of payday, I’d like to add ‘anything outside zone 2’ or ‘anything that costs over a fiver’ – which can leave you with limited options. And so, coming across London Fun Salsa’s £3 class, right in Piccadilly Circus, I seemed all out of excuses to get out of trying new things.
My friend Amelia and I had booked the class at the beginning of January – back when resolutions were still firm and dreams of becoming an all-round better human within the next 12 months seemed feasible – but as the evening rolled around I became more and more nervous. My only experiences of dancing were after a bucketful of sugar-based alco-pops in sweaty student nightclubs, or of getting over-enthusiastic and bumping into fellow gym-goers during the occasional Zumba class, so it’s safe to say my expectations weren’t high; but it turns out I needn’t have worried. Although several people there had been dancing for a while, it was the first time for lots of us, and we started at the beginning with the basic steps, with our lovely instructor Curtis’ encouragement and jokes setting us all at our ease. But if you’re still a little reluctant to head out to the dancefloor, read on for a few essential tips to avoid potential dance disasters.
1. Don’t wear tights with broken elastic. Or a bra with loose straps. I spent so much time hoiking, tweaking, and readjusting that my partners must have thought either I had a nervous tic or that I’d mastered a new move that no-one else was aware of. Since it never seemed to catch on, it seems like it was probably the former.
2. Don’t be a girl. After the first 45 minutes or so, we were partnered up, and the lovely Curtis casually revealed that the steps I’d had so much trouble mastering now had to be done backwards, which threw me into even more confusion.
3. Don’t be a boy. You do get to carry out the steps in the way you’ve been taught, but you also have to lead – so all mistakes are absolutely your fault. As I kept reminding my partners as I salsaed in the wrong direction, yet again.
4. Do know your right and left. Don’t get so smug, thinking you’re Strictly’s newest star when you master one step, that you then miss out on learning the next two, and spend the rest of the evening twirling the wrong way and stepping on your partner’s toes.
5. Do wear heels and a swishy skirt. A sexy salsa shimmy may not come naturally, so a little extra fabric goes a long way in adding a swing to your hips; as will some mid-height heels – for the first couple of hours at least, before you start limping around like Ann Widdecombe doing the paso doble.
6. Do have a drink or two. I found that a couple of blood orange martinis worked wonders in quelling my embarrassment at shimmying around in a roomful of strangers. Don’t, however, go overboard – there were a few bar-breaks throughout the evening, and I can attest that following a routine gets harder with every sip of half-price Prosecco – even if you do start to mind a lot less.
7. Don’t judge a book by its cover. It turns out that you don’t have to be snake-hipped and whippet-slim to be a great dancer: the best time I had all evening was during the free dance section of the night, when a boy approximately half my height drew me wordlessly to the centre of the dancefloor and led me beautifully through all the steps we’d learned; as well as several we hadn’t, culminating in a very Dirty Dancing-esque leg-flicky-slidey-thing. It was exhilarating and unexpected – although I was relieved that he stopped short of trying the lift.
Reporter: Charlotte Couldrey ¦ @elfredabeetle
Charlotte found the deal through Funzing: http://uk.funzing.com/funz/3506 (It is now running at £4)