I have to learn to salsa dance. By Saturday. While wearing heels.
I can’t reveal the reason for this challenge but suffice it to say that the continuation of life as we know it depends on me being able to remain upright while dancing to Tito Puente. Oh, and did I mention that fifty percent of the people there will already know how to do this? It’s definitely a pride thing with me and it all goes back to the fact that no matter how hard I try, I still can’t figure out how to do the Electric Slide. Having stood silently against the wall while everyone slides around to the verses that talk about “it’s electric…boogiewoogiewoogie” is not the way I roll and I’m determined never to let it happen again. So salsa I will, even if it’s the last thing I do.
I’ve downloaded several salsa tunes and even accessed a video on YouTube where a lovely couple demonstrates exactly how to dance salsa like a pro. Hey, even Victor Cruz of the New York Giants can bust out salsa moves after scoring a touchdown; just how hard can it be? Very, apparently. I’m still working on it and may even have some video to post next time I post, so stay tuned. It may be a thing of beauty or so embarrassing that it becomes a YouTube sensation. You know I’m not shy—I’m the first person to don a lampshade on my head if the situation calls for it—but this may even break my gregarious spirit. We shall see.
But all of this talk about salsa dancing got me thinking about writing. Really. (Wait for it; I'll get there.) I’m a fairly good dancer—some would even say that I have good rhythm—but trying to stay true to traditional salsa has proven hard for me because I fancy myself more of an interpretative dancer, allowing the music to dictate where I go and how. Following specific steps and not deviating from those steps, while staying true to the salsa tradition, would not allow me to stay true to myself as an “artist” (and yes, I mean that in a tongue-in-cheek way).
It’s kind of like writing. I know some of the steps and can even put them together in a cohesive package that looks fairly attractive and has some rhythm. (Based on some of my reader mail this week there are some who would beg to differ that point.) But try to adhere to a formula? Well, the wheels fall off the bus for me. Learning to salsa correctly, following the intricate steps, is the equivalent of starting a writing project with a complete and thorough outline, something that goes from point A to point Z in a straight line. I can’t do it. What I can do is jiggle to and fro to the music in time while salsa dancing, making a passable attempt at mimicking the steps and everyone who knows how to do salsa well. In writing, I can do the same, going back and forth, to the future and back to the past, over something a thousand times to make sure the words say what I want them to say, and doing it all again the next day and the next with no pattern, no particular flow, no organization.
I will probably never win a salsa dancing contest nor will I ever win the Pulitzer, at least until I stop writing about bumbling college professors, sly nuns, and people who kill in the heat of the moment, but for now, I’m content to sway to the music and let the words that I want to write come out in one interpretative jumble until I can put them in an order that makes some kind of sense.
Writers out there, how do you do it? And can anyone come over and teach me to salsa before Saturday?