Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The Original Salsa Cardio

I try to go salsa dancing once a month which ends up being every six weeks - or more - to my dismay, but I'll take what I can get. It's a far cry from heading out four nights a week like I used to religiously do back in my early 20's-- I was on the dance-regulars circuit then -- , but still, I WILL TAKE WHAT I CAN GET now because going out salsa'ing is still my favorite cardio workout.

I went to Mama Juana's last night in Studio City. Mandy met me there who lives four minutes away and my girl Heather met me there who lives nine minutes away. And I schlepped from the OC with a day pack, equipped with provisions and water. I napped mid-way. You know what I really love about the salsa dance circuit? That on a Tuesday night at 9pm a club is already packed and a band that's been around for 15 years is setting up on stage. New dancers are being trained and recruited as a few veterans lighten their dance load, but the salsa scene hardly wavers because who doesn't, if only in their mind, want to look and dance like the picture above? HOT!

And the Mama Juana dancers want to dance, boy. Badly. Once the three of us got asked to dance, the influx of requests never stopped. And how you dance the first dance is key to who will ask you the next time around. My first dance was with a very well-trained, 3 foot Asian man. I am not exaggerating on the well trained nor the 3 foot part. I ducked with every turn, and his hand landed exactly where my ponytail hit my back and he inadvertently kept pulling on it. It must've looked like I had an odd tick, jerking my head back with his pull and jerking again forward to free my hair. Mandy said when she danced with him, he accidentally placed his hand on her titty during a turn, and we then both concluded he was Well-Trained "Accident" Perv. When he grabbed her boob, Mandy yelled out, "Good for you!" to which he -- as trained -- put his hand to his mouth in apology. Heather did not get asked to dance by Accident Guy because he knew we were on to him and secondly, Heather is seven feet tall in heels and he knew he couldn't discretely dance face to crotch with her and pull off any "accidental" crap. His jig was up at our table. The second dance I had was with a man 150 years old with a leopard skin button-down shirt and great wing-tip shoes. Sometimes these old timers are my favorite because they've been dancing since mambo was invented. I envisioned this guy dancing in ol' Havana in the 40's. He was smooth, but looked better from a far then actually dancing with him. At the end, he dipped me (I'm a sucker for a dip!) and when he pulled me up, he said in a warbley grandpa voice, "Were you scared?" "No!" I said with a grand smile. He said, "Good because feel this." And he made feel his Jack Lalane bicep. "Way to go, Pops."

Immediately after I danced with Father Time, I danced with a guy that wore a sleeveless black shirt over a sheer, white, long-sleeved shirt painted with tribal tattoos. I poked Mandy before I left for the dance floor. I have danced with this guy before and I knew I was in for a wild ride so the first thing I said was, "Be gentle," then I mumbled "Tattoo Guy."

I was sweating like a salsa pig for the following reasons: 1. I sweat like a pig, in general. 2. The packed dance floor was upstairs and the carbon monoxide output was at red-line levels. 3. The air conditioning was not working. We were all like fuck it -- let's sweat our balls off because we won't -- we can't -- stop dancing. It was a salsa version of Bikram yoga where the room is heated to enhance whatever Bikram is enhancing; cleared pores? Deeper stretch? Yeah, we were doing all that last night too. I had to make a few trips to the bathroom to wipe myself down, wring out my pants and shirt, comb hair back into place and reapply all make up.

Towards the end of the night, better dancers came out of the wood work including Alex Da Silva who is LA salsa guy extraordinaire. He, while wearing an embroidered tunic that looked surprisingly good on him, whipped his 80-pound partner around into incredibly aerobatic moves. I think he even did some helicopter move where her legs were the blades above his head - it was pretty amazing. I used to dance with Alex in the beginning of his career, about 13 years ago, when he was still based out of San Francisco. Back then he was wiry, ambitious, jerky; he couldn't stay still to save his life. Once Alex and I danced at this crazy little club in Oakland called Caribe and he told me mid-dance that on the next turn I should tuck my knees to my chest and before I could figure out what he was talking about, he back flipped me perfectly and we did not lose one step to the music. "Let's do that again," he said. And before I could protest, he did it again and we kept on dancing like we had rehearsed that a hundred times. When I walked off the dance floor the two people I came with just stared at me, drinks frozen to their lips. One, who I knew from a writing group, said, "Well, I've see it all including your underwear." And the other, his gorgeous poet brother, just kept staring at me until we started officially dating about an hour later.

I left Mama Juana's last night happy and exhausted. I started my drive home with a towel around my neck and a Gatorade IV, and I ran through my mind all the up coming weeks and weekends, scheming the next time I could go out dancing again. Then I imagined Antonio Banderas trying to survive Mama Juana's with his River Dance horseshit. Then I wondered what I'd do if I won the MegaMillions Power Ball lottery . . . hey, it was a long drive home.

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