I peep around the door and see a huge room with about 20 couples. Lots of youngsters, but also quite a few grey heads. There is some Latin music playing in the background. The sense of anticipation is so high, I can feel adrenalin shoot through my veins as if I am at the start of an Olympic race. But no, this is something of far less national interest and of far greater personal interest - I am joining a dance class session at the Bangalore Club. My parents recently signed up for this dance class and they cajoled the instructor into letting me try a session out when I was visiting. I haven't been this excited since...er...well....to be honest, since Brian tried to hold my hand in high school (that was the very first of my hand holding experiences and tragically still rates as my all time high) . In my mind I can already see myself gliding across the floor. I can see myself doing twists and little marches and twirls and all the while looking fantastic while staring into my partner's eyes and making great conversation...yes, my mind is a wicked thing and I firmly believe that my power to hallucinate is one of my greater talents.
Alan is our instructor. He's there in track pants and a t-shirt that says - Chicks fall for guys who dance. I like him already. Most others have dressed up for the occasion - not sure of it's a Bangalore thing or a Bangalore Club thing. Since all the women get to dance with all the men (as in you don't just stick to your partner but you shift partners at every step), I can see that care has been taken with creaming hands, painting nails, spraying on the deodorant, then spraying plenty of perfume over it, shaving off the 4 o'clock whiskers and shoes polished to a reflective shine. It is all in all quite a grand affair for a dance class. Even the youngsters are well dressed and non-grungy. How cool is that.
Most of the class has already had a few sessions of Salsa. As the Salsa music comes on, the groups deftly divides itself as efficiently as Moses divided the Red Sea - men on one side, women on the other. This is where everyone re-caps their steps without partners. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8. More precisely it is 1-2-3-clap-5-6-7-clap. The steps are easy enough to pick up by watching the others. The basic salsa step is a forward backward step. If you can manage to shake your hips and arms along with the footwork, and at the same time miraculously manage to not look like a rabid dog, you then know that you have a bright future in the dance world and you can then work on upping the 'sexy' quotient. For me, the challenge is more on looking 'human' and less on looking 'sexy', a problem I recognise right away. But hey, I am getting into the groove, I am doing the steps right and feeling a wonderful sense of liberation. I am thinking that I should have done this years ago.
And then suddenly it is time to pair up. I am paired with a man who dances like Fred Astaire and smells like the Malboro man - a heady mix of cologne and tobacco which magically transforms the aura around him. The only problem here is my two left feet are no match to his perfectly performing ones. When I bump into him and step over his feet for the second time, he kindly asks me if this is my first time. I start to nod yes, which causes a seconds lack of concentration and my two feet finally trip over each other and I fall flat on my face. The dancing comes to a complete stop, people rush over, my parents (who until then, I thought were kind people) are laughing away in a corner and wondering if they should tell anyone that they are related to me, I sit up far more embarrassed than hurt. It has taken me a mere 6 salsa steps and fifteen minutes to learn that dancing is indeed rocket science and I am the equivalent of a third grade imbecile.
But when you hit rock bottom things can only move up. I stand up to discover that my new partner is a cute young chap who looks extremely nervous at partnering the new girl whose dance moves involve intimate contact of her face iwth the floor. I gather up my fast fading courage and draw my thick skin closer and I start to dance cautiously. Maybe because this boy isn't as good a dancer or maybe because falling is the absolute worst thing that can happen to me, but my initial trepidation and self consciousness evaporate. I start doing the steps right, of course I have to stare at my feet all the while without which my mind goes blank and I cannot remember the next step. Alan keeps telling me that dancing is all about romance and social interaction and staring at my feet means that I am completely ignoring my partner. I smile at him, all the while wanting to grab him by the collar and let him in on the secret that staring at my feet has less to do with being unsocial and more to do with keeping myself upright instead of horizontal on the floor.
Alan moves onto a new step. It involves holding the right leg at right angles to the left one and then moving the left leg behind the right one and moving your body the other way, then twirling and finishing it off with a hair combing action...I wasn't kidding when I said this is rocket science. A few practise rounds of this and those who can dance are looking pretty darn good. Those who cannot dance look like they are on the verge of a grand mal epilepsy attack. My mom has mastered the steps pretty well, her habit of doing things precisely has permeated into her dancing. My dad on the other hand has a non-existant sense of rythmn, he cannot tell his left from his right and no matter how hard he tries, he can only start the first step on the third beat! With all these handicaps, his salsa looks like he is playing tennis on the spot. I suspect that I look like drunk toddler when I dance but by now I am having too good a time to care.
It is a one hour class. I get the chance to dance with all the guys. The tall one who has to bend at his waist to hold my hands. The young one who has to count loudly to keep his feet in time. The aggressive one who insists on showing me all the wrong steps (like I wasn't doing enough of that all on my own). The good looking one whose eyes I look into, never mind that I don't get a single step right with him. The 65 year old who stops to catch his breath after every 3 steps. The cute one who dances so well, the only thing I can do is stop and admire. The corporate one who decides when to start and stop and delegates the job of keeping the beat to me. The Bollywood one who keeps looking at himself in the mirror and (oh horror) keeps pouting.
The dancing class is over too soon. Did I learn to dance over that one hour - probably not. But I did learn that I would love to try it again. I imagine that in a hundred classes or so, I just might learn to be slightly graceful, to not step on too many toes and to smile and keep beat at the same time. But I know that I'll start enjoying the process from the first step.