I think I want to be a Salsera. I don't speak much Spanish, but I find myself very attracted to Latin music and especially Salsa.
I don't know if it's because I'm part Latina (my grandfather was Puerto Rican) or because growing up I heard salsa, merengue and Latin Jazz as much as I heard soul, R&B, and hip hop music. Either way, I've always been mesmerized by the musical instruments and rhythms found in Latin music.
I can recall watching a Latin jazz band play on the Jazzmobile at the street fair in Hell's Kitchen, the neighborhood my father lived in when I was growing up. Sometimes he'd even take me to salsa concerts in the park around the city. He loves music and if the concert is free, more than likely he'll go anywhere to see live entertainment. In Harlem, salsa and merengue blared from radios and speakers in front of stores on Broadway, inside of the bodegas on every corner and from my neighbor's window whenever they were having a weekend party.
Part of the reason why I wanted to learn Spanish so badly was because I wanted to know what the artists were singing about in their songs! (Being fluent in Spanish was only secondary to this. And of course, this was before Google would translate lyrics for you.)
In the last year or so, I began to purchase salsa music on my own to add to my ever-growing music collection. I began with my favorite el cantante, Hector Lavoe. I also began attending salsa dance parties at Windows Over Harlem, now Melba's 125, on Friday nights at the State Building on 125th Street with my good friend, Millie.
Whenever I go, I am in awe of the great dancers that seem to converge in this space. The crowd is interracial and cuts across most age groups, but man can they move!! Sometimes I feel that the long time Salseros put us young people to shame. They are expert Salsa dancers and will even slip into other Latin dance moves like the hustle, cha-cha-cha, mambo, rumba, merengue and bachata.
They are so good that watching them makes me more self-conscious of my beginner dance moves. Sometimes I lose focus as I watch them, fascinated by the intricate movements, twists and turns and the complicated patterns they create. It only makes me want to move like that too.
The only way to get better is to learn and practice. I've decided that the only way to do this is to take dance lessons. I haven't taken a dance class since I was in high school and I'm a little nervous about it, but it's the only I can become a true Salsera.
For more history on Salsa, see this blog.
Until next time,