I decided to start salsa with the intention of being able to indulge in my femininity, having neglected it for some time as a defence mechanism. I have achieved this goal and gained far more than what I bargained for, for salsa has truly opened my eyes to a whole new world, and just in time as I soon embark upon exploring the actual world.
Confidence with others
I constantly flaunt the benefits of weightlifting; namely that it has significantly built my self-confidence inside the gym and in the real world. Something I do not speak of so much is the fact that it built my confidence so high I started to live too much of an independent life, a happy life, but it lacked meaningful relations with others. I adore my lifting, studying and work and could easily go through life completing these three things every day on my own. Yet I have great ambition to be a mother and wife so it was important that I left my shell and found a social hobbie.
I distinctly remember trying salsa for the first time at a salsa party and being overwhelmed by the fact I had just danced an entire salsa track without realising how or what I had done (it is particularly easy for a female because she only has to learn how to follow, no need to know any sequence or memoir). That feeling is was suckered me into salsa. I also remember the tension I had with allowing someone else to have control over my body and the uncomfortableness that matched it. My entire body would seize up when being touched by another and the men had to tell me to relax, multiple times, when dancing with them. It took weeks, months even, for me to relax into the situation and trust my salsa peers.
Salsa opened my heart and I now have many close friends who I love and trust deeply. I also really enjoy having a man lead because it is quite the opposite of weightlifting and my line of work. Furthermore, I am starting to feel the beat of different music and form my own style, which feels more like dancing whereas before, I would say I was just “completing the necessary steps”. Such openness has crept into other parts of my life and I have started weightlifting at a club with other lifters which has significantly enhanced my lifting development.
Whilst learning to be OK on my own has been the best life lesson to date, learning to let others in has equally been a fundamental lesson.
Living in the moment
I mentally feel most stable when I have routine and certainty; I thoroughly enjoy a 9-5 office job and the constant grind of lifting the same weights every day at the same time at the same place. To know that when I finish at the gym, I will go to work, then when I finish work I will go home to study. To know that each task I complete is taking me one step closer to an objective goal; a new weight or grade. In contrast, salsa showed me how to enjoy uncertainty.
Of course, you should always work hard towards long term goals, especially in this instant 24/7 society we live in. With practically everything available at the click of a finger, I believe it is so important to have something you grind daily for. However, you need to tune out of this every now and again to refresh the mind. I do not live for the weekends but I sure as hell look forward to dancing until the early hours of the morning for simple momentary fun.
I am so happy dancing that laughing and squealing is a strong reaction when men spin me around and throw me backwards etc. because I am not expecting it (a very different reaction to when I first started, ehh). It is exciting to not know what is about to come and when a man has style it makes it all that more fun. Some men have actually been concerned and questioned whether I have been laughing at them, of course I reassure them that that is most definitely not the case, though most men seem to find my happiness enchanting.
I feel this welcoming of uncertainty will significantly help me when I compete in weightlifting again because I currently find the atmosphere of competitions very stressful, which of course impacts my performance on the big day.
Appreciation of the world
I have a huge interest in China and Malaysia because of my mother. Naively I never entertained the idea of learning about other cultures until I started to spend time with people from places all over the world; Poland, Spain, France, India, Mexico, Portugal and so many more countries. Now I am very in tune with appreciating different people’s appearances, languages, food, values and traditions.
I have had the luxury of being treated to homemade food from my friends’ countries of nationality and learning about the history of these dishes. I am also fascinated by the way they communicate with each other in their mother language and I envy their language ability, although I also deeply admire it and it motivates me to become multilinguist.
Furthermore, I have come to learn that not only does each individual have their own style, but areas of the world also have their own collective type of style. For instance, my salsa teachers teach a mixture of cross-body (L.A/N.Y) and Cuban whereas I have gone to salsa parties elsewhere in the UK and local people will dance either cross-body or Cuban, not a mixture. There are also clear differences from country to country.
Basically, salsa is the complete opposite of the internal life that I am so used to. As a natural introvert, I enjoy being able to bounce between the comfort zone of my own space and the exciting atmosphere of submerging myself with others from all sorts of backgrounds.