Giggling. That’s what I remember doing the most as a toddler. Excitement. Pure joy. Laughing. At anything, really.
When I would go home to Puerto Rico and hear all of this percussive, punchy music, I just wanted to laugh and dance. That “freedom of “being” lasted only a few years.
Pretty soon I faced a few challenges that would last for 10-15 years of my life, including racism, language barriers, my own self-consciousness and more demons that are a little too sad to go into for this extremely happy dance story.
Flamenco as My First Dance
Jumping forward, by the time I turned 20, movement and expression was bursting inside of me. I had to dance. I just had to! I’d avoided the gym and sports like the plague as a kid, so as to not give anyone an excuse to stare at me. And I wasn’t about to “let myself go.” There was no doubt in my mind that I was going to be a healthy adult.
And. It was unavoidable. I LOVE music and I wanted to interact with it.
Never a conformist, I began with one of the hardest dances: Flamenco.
The dancer becomes a musician. With suspense, she slows down and speeds up the beat with her feet, hands, torso, even the tilt of her chin. The shoes are made of leather, wood and nails that make noise on whatever floor you tap out your intricate rhythms to. The singer’s, guitarist’s and percussionist’s eyes are glued to the dancer for physical clues of where she wants to go with the music when it’s her turn to lead. Flamenco overtook my life and, thankfully so, because I was at the end of my marriage.
Salsa Dancing … in Egypt?!
Eventually, single again, I made my way to Spain to soak up Flamenco and live off of remote, freelance work.
From there, still living the digital nomad lifestyle, I travelled to Egypt. The land of the pharaohs had been on my bucket list way before bucket lists were a thing.
Indiana Jones inspired a ton of kids, myself included. Digging in the dirt and studying Egyptology was the most thrilling thing I could have done with my life, I thought. My archaeological dreams didn’t materialize… but I made it to Egypt. That’s what mattered.
By the time I was 28 I’d already traveled to about 40 different cities in the U.S. and in the world. Walking over THE Nile on a famous bridge towards the white-domed opera house and green gardens, seeing felukas sailing calmly, grand hotels along the banks and myriads of Egyptians living a café lifestyle in this ancient city was leagues beyond anything I’d done in those 40 cities.
And you’ll never guess where I went that night in Cairo: to dance Salsa.
The irony was not lost on me. Here I was, a Puerto Rican who traveled how many thousands of miles to Cairo, to watch Egyptians, Jordanians, Lebanese, Americans, Brits, Canadians, Cubans dancing Salsa on a boat to a live Cuban band, styling with their arms, doing triple turns, fancy shines with their legs … and 40 cities simply never prepared me for that sight.
“There’s no way I’m letting these people outshine and shame a Puerto Rican at SALSA. I have got to step up my game and learn to dance as good as they do, oh, and have as much fun as they are having.”
The rest of my thoughts were simply: “Cairo is beyond anything I could have imagined.”
Flamenco, Salsa & Kizomba Changed My Life
And that was how my social dance life began. In San Diego with a passionate group of Flamencos.
And in Egypt, among that group of people, who were some of the most hospitable, fun, friendly group I’ve come across in my life, and to this day are some of my best friends.
While Flamenco still moves me deeply, it’s not in my current sphere. Instead, it meshed with my soul a long time ago and fortified my core being as a strong woman that can face any discrimination, move on in life after losing hope for a partner in life, and yet live life with passion. I laugh, cry, feel all my emotions with intensity and say something when it needs to be said.
Salsa opened up another dimension of my Caribbean heritage and when I want to feel that unfettered thrill of my toddler years, I go out to dance Salsa.
From Salsa, I learned a bit of Bachata, Tango and Kizomba.
Kizomba & Screenplay
Kizomba has it’s own beginning story in my life. In 2015 a young French man, Kizomba, and newfound friends in Málaga, Spain made me realize something pivotal in my life:
I’ve been blessed by the abundant gifts the universe has to offer, not because I deserve it, but just because I’ve said… “yes” when the universe offered.
I’ve even completed a Kizomba screenplay, in a flash of inspiration.
Like most people, the first time I saw Kizomba it was so close and sensual I thought I would be uncomfortable dancing it.
However, by saying “yes,” and not holding back, I found a connection between two human beings in Kizomba that I haven’t found in any other dance (except for the few times in Tango that this fumbling beginner hasn’t messed up).
This connection is a high that can truly make you feel like your spirit is simply not on this earth. You’re enveloped in this persons (lead dancer) dream, you create a dream together, and fly together. When your dances are over, you are left with nothing but a sublime smile and the imprint of a connection with another human being.
At a time of my divorce, when I needed to find strength, not lose myself in despair and connect with others, dance was they key.
When I learned that the world is a wonderful host to explore, it was dance that paved the way. Dance is what has kept me alive, young, happy and hopeful.
Feel free to tell SalsaSpots your story!