Dancing my way around the world

Dancing is one of my all-time favourite activities. Salsa. Merengue. Hip hop, Swing. Tango.  Anything as long as it involves music and movement. For as long as I can remember, I automatically start to sway when I hear music. (If you’ve ever seen my parents dance….you can easily understand where the passion for dancing comes from) For me, dancing represents the chance to express yourself, to enjoy the company of friends and strangers at the same time and to get much needed exercise. Most importantly though, the sense of freedom that dancing ignites in me equates to moments of pure bliss. Seriously, sometimes I can be found in the middle of a crowded dance floor with my eyes closed and a silly grin spread across my face.  Naturally, as I travel the world I have enjoyed some nights out dancing.  Dance has brought some new adventures into my trip.

Let me share with you my Top 5  Dance Memories  of my world trip:

5. Randomly dancing to bands playing in local streets- San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. Street processions in Puno, Peru. Carnival in Salta, Argentina.

I am not shy when it comes to randomly busting a move in the streets. I have been known to make eye contact with a fellow dance-enthusiast and then randomly start hip-bumping or salsa-ing with them. It’s a great way to meet new people and enjoy the excitement that music brings. The musicians usually get a kick out of it too. I especially loved joining the February Carnival in Salta, Argentina.

 

Street bands in Puno, Peru

Street bands in Puno, Peru

Dancing dresses in Puno

Dancing dresses in Puno

4. Dancing in the middle of the new mayor’s circle- Copacabana, Bolivia

Oh,  if only I had a nickel for every time I got pulled into the middle of the dance circle! My first night in Copacabana, Bolivia I stumbled upon local celebrations. When I asked an elderly lady what they were celebrating, she told me it was the transition of local community leaders. When I went to congratulate the new female leader of the neighborhood, two of her community members pulled me into the circle ( backpack and all)and instructed me to dance. I’m not one to argue (much), so I innocently obliged. An hour later, I was sipping beer from the communal cup and we were all singing and dancing in the middle of a large community circle. Awesome night.

 

Bolivian Community Leaders celebrate

Bolivian Community Leaders celebrate

3. Teaching kids hip hop- Gili islands, Indonesia and Lima, Peru

I adore kids and their inquisitive nature. So when I bonded with the hostel owners nephews on Gili Trawagan Island in Bali, it only seemed natural to teach them the basics of hip hop. It was amusing for the entire neighbourhood and all the hostel guests to witness a 3 year old, 5 year old and me bustin’ it in the street. I also truly enjoyed teaching Guiomar’s little cousin the same moves after out Christmas lunch in Lima ( how else was I going to work off that huge lunch?)

Hip hop with locals in Gili T
Dancing off Xmas lunch

Dancing off Xmas lunch

 

2.  Salsa in the world’s capital of Salsa Dancing-  Cali, Colombia ( and everywhere else in Colombia)

I decided that a trip to Cali was absolutely necessary, even if only for two days. I was only two hours away from the World’s Capital of Salsa- how could I not pay homage?

I found the only hostel that offered free salsa lessons and booked a room.  I arrived at around 2pm and ended up taking 1 yoga lesson, 1 community 2 hour salsa lesson and 1 hour group class at the hostel before dancing the night away at a local bar. Day 1 summary: approximately 4+ hours of salsa dancing.

1-2-3 shake!

1-2-3 shake!

By day two, it was becoming apparent that salsa runs in the blood of everyone in Cali. Cali salsa is unique as it involves some fancy footwork. I decided it was time to step it up and book a private 1 hour class with Victor. Victor was an incredible teacher and we laughed as we danced the hour away. He also showed me some typical Cali Salsa moves so I would be prepared for the evening’s excursion to a local salsa party. Here’s a sneak peak at what Cali salsa is all about:

 

 

Dip me Victor!

Dip me Victor!

 

Slightly confusing turn

Slightly confusing turn

The big finish

The big finish

I was sharing the gigantic dorm with some lovely girls and we decided to hit the famous TinTins salsa club on Thursday.

Girls night out in Cali

The twelve of us piled into cabs and hit TinTins. At first, it was intimidating to watch the locals effortlessly move, spin and shake on the dance floor. However, after a few dances, we all got into it. People easily approached one another to dance. It was the perfect atmosphere to share a dance with a stranger without it being creepy. Even my dance teacher Victor spotted me in the crowd and tested me on the steps I had learnt earlier in the day. Overall,  the night was a truly local experience. We were sweaty yet happy after it all.  Day 2 summary: 4+ hours of salsa

Cali will forever have a special place in my heart. I think the salsa culture fosters a welcoming ambiance whereby people are truly happier via dance.

 

1.Tango in the streets of La Boca and at La Viruta-  Buenos Aires, Argentina

La Boca is a colorful and dangerous neighborhood in Buenos Aires. I was instructed to get off the bus, tour the three tourist blocks then get back on the bus and leave. Everything went according to plan except that as soon as I stepped off the bus, a nice man in a suit and cool hat asked for me hand….here’s what ensued:

It was totally awesome! Of course I loved every moment  (and had to pay him for the crazy photo shoot we did… Worth.Every.Peso).

La Boca moves

La Boca moves

As you will notice, I had absolutely no idea how to dance tango. After witnessing professionals in San Telmo square on Sunday afternoon, I decided it was necessary to seek out a proper tango lesson in the World Famous Tango city- Buenos Aires! Locals all recommended La Viruta, which for the bargain entrance price of $8 USD, I could get 1.5 hours of salsa then a show by the teachers then 1.5 hours of Tango then the rest of the night at the club. Sign me up! I couldn’t convince anyone at my hostel to join me so I put on a dress and my dancing flats ( I’m a backpacker, remember?) and boldly went solo to La Viruta.

After a round robin of dancing intermediate salsa, the lights dimmed and the dance floor cleared for four couples to take center stage. These tango teachers made an entrance! After an impressive and sensual introductory dance, the MC introduced each of the teachers and they each busted out a few moves. I was one of the few foreigners in the place so I was quietly observing from the sidelines when out of my peripheral vision, I could see the MC heading my way. Before I knew it, he pulled me into the middle of the dance floor, yelled something in really fast Spanish and handed me the mic.  Usually, I speak ok-level Spanish but with bright lights and 300 local eyes staring at me, I could barely get out my name clearly. I whispered into the MC’s ear ‘ Soy Canadiense, hablo solo un poco d’espanol senor.’ ( I’m Canadian, and speak only a little Spanish mister). He then proceeded to ask familiar questions into the mic like “ De donde eres” ( where are you from). I quickly adjusted to the limelight answered politely in my best Spanish and then he spoke really fast, en espanol, to one of the male teachers. I stood there wondering what the heck was coming next.  A song started blasting from the speakers and I realized the teacher was giving me a welcome dance. Luckily, it was a top 40 dance song that I knew, so I slowly started moving my hips while he busted out some professional moves. I’m not one to shy away from a dance off so I whipped out classics like the running man and body wave. The crowd went crazy. Here was this random foreign girl with poor Spanish challenging the tango teacher to a dance-off in the middle of La Viruta on a Friday night. On the mic again, the MC  offered to reward me with a bottle of water. I told him to make it a vodka. Again, the crowd went nuts.

After my refreshment, the real tango lesson started.  An elderly ( perhaps 70 year old) Porteno approached me and asked to be my partner. I agreed and told him it was my first time tango-ing. He spent the next 1.5 hours delicately and patiently telling me how to properly dance tango. It was a scene out of a move as I had my hand on his shoulders , eyes closed trying to properly anticipate his next steps. He taught me how to follow his lead and enjoy the music and the dance. It was spectacular and one of the most authentic moments of my trip. I was engulfed by the atmosphere- women in beautiful flowing dresses and sparkly heels with their eyes closed, cheek-to-cheek with their partners gracefully moving across the crowded dance floor. Men confidently holding their female counterpart and boldly yet gently guiding them to the seductive sounds of the milonga. I remember taking a break on the sidelines to watch the more experienced dancers showcase their moves. Everyone was entranced by this spell. It was magical.

 

I have many more fond memories of dancing around the world but these definitely wore down my dancing shoes and lightened my spirit. I will continue to dance around the world….you never know when I’ll be busting it up on a street near you.

 

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