A story about how I learned to dance salsa

English Level: B1 🇨🇦

Full Transcript

I wander out of the school with my head down and think, “why did I think learning salsa with Germans was a good idea?”

It’s the fall of 2020, and I meet up with a friend I haven’t seen in nine months. She says, “my husband and I joined a salsa class. You should come.” Most people would say, “hmmm better not.” Not me though, because I’ve always wanted to learn how to dance salsa.

When I was a teenager, I had a friend who could dance. He was like a gazelle prancing around the Savanah. “If only I could do that,” I wished. In my twenties, I used to watch YouTube videos and thought that would make me a better dancer. It didn’t. When I moved to Germany in my late twenties, I met a group of older ladies who went salsa dancing every Sunday afternoon. Naturally, I joined them, but since none of us knew what we were doing, we just chatted and danced in a circle. 

So when Noelia asks me to join their dance school, I say, “si, me gusta!” 

I walk into the school nervous and anxious. I have Latino blood, but I’m seeing all these Germans who are better than me. My hands start to sweat. I introduce myself to the instructor, and he asks me, “do you have basic knowledge of salsa?” I refer back to my YouTube knowledge of salsa and say, “si, señor!”. “Ok, then I put you in level two.”

I walk into level two, and another instructor asks us to look for a partner. I’m too shy to ask anyone, so once everyone has chosen a partner, I’m standing alone like a zebra separated from the herd. That’s when I meet Helga. I introduce myself, “Hi, my name is Jorge. Like George Bush.” I know it’s not the best person to compare myself to, but everybody knows him, so that’s what I always say. The instructor shows us the first move, and I attempt to replicate it. I take Helga’s hands and do my own stupid-looking variation of the move. Helga doesn’t look amused. She says in a sarcastic tone, “why are you here?” “Sorry, the instructor told me to come here. It’s my first time.” 

Thankfully, 5 minutes later, the instructor asks us to change partners. I scurry away like a deer after a gunshot. The rest of the lesson is a blur. All I can think is, “this is embarrassing!” 

I go back the next week and guess who’s standing in front of me to begin the lesson? Helga. Again, the instructor shows us a move, and I can’t do it. This time, Helga doesn’t wait for me to lead. She takes control and pulls me in the right direction. “Komm hier!” In salsa, the man usually leads, but I’m not about to pick a fight with a German. 

Another week, another fail. I have to do something, or else I will keep getting embarrassed. So I practice in front of the mirror every day. I look for Youtube videos of salsa moves and break them down into individual movements. Left foot, then right foot. Raise your arm and pull her through. Picture the training montage in fighting movies. I’m like Rocky but for salsa. 

Six weeks later, I face my challenger once again. We don’t even greet each other. It’s like a UFC staredown. The instructor calls out the move, and I do it correctly. Next move, bang, I do it. Next move, I’m on a roll. I’m feeling confident now. I start smiling. She looks at me with a slight smirk, and the following word escapes her lips, “gut.”

Victory is mine! 

Vocabulary Words

  1. wander (verb): schlendern
  2. prance (verb): stolzieren
  3. compare (verb): etw. vergleichen
  4. replicate (verb): etw. wiederholen
  5. embarrassing (adj): peinlich
  6. montage (noun): the technique of selecting, editing, and piecing together separate sections of film to form a continuous whole.
  7. call out (verb): verlesen
  8. smirk (noun): Grinsen

Phrases to Remember

  1. use to: describing an action or situation that was done repeatedly or existed for a period in the past.
  2. refer back to: To consult some previous piece or source of information; to turn one’s attention back to something.
  3. to be amused: pleasantly entertained or diverted (as by something funny).
  4. scurry away: To run away, especially fearfully.
  5. break something down: separate something into a number of parts.
  6. to be on a roll: On a streak of success or intense activity

Question to Consider

When was the last time you tried something new?


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