It takes two to tango, but a lot more than that to salsa. Jack Walsh learns why real men can dance
Ireland is in the grip of a social epidemic, one that has penetrated our culture in such a profound way that it has simply become a fact of life. This is the idea that Irish men simply cannot dance. Granted, most Irish men do have a very limited dance repertoire (hazy drunken head banging, the occasional dodgy shuffle, talking your way out of watching Black Swan) but I’m not talking about that, I’m talking about true, honest dancing. Social etiquette has deemed it uncool for men to dance. However, this view is only limited to men themselves, as every one of my female friends has described their ideal boyfriend as having some sort of dancing capabilities. Male opinion can be broken down as follows: 1. Can and will dance. 2. Can, but won’t dance in fear of judgement or criticism from peers. 3. Can’t, but would like to learn. 4. Can’t, won’t, never will, shame on anyone that does. Anyone who’s a one, two or three I personally think is a hero, and don’t worry, number fours aren’t real men anyway. All of these factors beg the question: simply put, why don’t men just give dancing a go?
That is why in this issue, Otwo have nabbed your average, ordinary, can’t-dance-to-save-his-life Arts student in an attempt to show that, quite literally, anyone can be taught how to dance. More specifically, my challenge was salsa dancing. First things first however: preparation. Due to being given this task at the last minute (and also thanks to a complete lack of dancing knowledge) I really wasn’t sure how I was supposed to dress. Well, my Adidas runners do have ‘Samba’ written on them, so that was pretty close. For the rest I went with stereotypical UCD fashion (complete with fake Ralph Lauren polo shirt) in an attempt for the everyman look and approach.
With my exhaustive preparation complete, I headed down to the International Students’ lounge (just below the Restaurant), dragging along a fellow fresher (let’s just call him Ciaran B., no, that’s giving away too much, C. Boylan, there we go) for the experience. We arrived late to be greeted by the Spanish Society instructors who ushered us into the back of the class. Thus began a night that would turn out to be more fun that I had expected. As this was only the second lesson and most of us were new, we started with some very basic steps. Salsa, we were told, is a very natural form of dance, but it takes a while for the body to get used to it. Like anything, practice is key, and one of the instructors admitted that it takes far more than simply an hour a day, but after seeing these guys and girls in action, it’s easy to tell that the training is worth every second. Basic steps did wind up being tricky, as this was my first ever lesson, but I like to think that I began to improve by the end of the individual work.
Things were going pretty well until we began dancing in pairs. Dancing in solitude was relatively pain-free, as in pairs people can closely examine just how bad you are. No doubt, in my pairing, I was the one poor dancer letting down the pair. So that everyone could get to know each other better, the instructors organised us into lines, facing our partners and switching every now and then. This started off great, until I realised that I was in the girls’ line, and couldn’t get out of it as there was an uneven number of guys. This meant two things: a) I wasn’t allowed to lead and b) all the steps and manoeuvres I had learned I now had to do backwards. I doubted that this would work too well, but it genuinely allowed everyone to get to mingle, highlighting the social benefit of trying something new. Despite the fact that my manly frame clunked through the ladies’ steps, everyone was incredibly friendly, and simply smiled through my shambolic attempts to try out a few hot salsa moves.
As the lesson was coming to a close we were led through an up-tempo warm-down, all to the beat of some suitably stylish salsa music. Afterwards I bid goodbye to the class, and whilst I may not have been particularly good, the instructors were imploring me to come back and to bring some more friends. Looking back on the lesson, it was easy to see why salsa dancing is such a popular form of artistic expression. Anyone interested in the dance, or simply in meeting new people, should definitely try their hands, arms, legs and feet at it – it’s one of those things every man should experience at least once, like team sports, Middleton whiskey and opening bras one-handed.