Carnival Cruise’s DJ started the “fiesta” with my favorite kind of dance music: salsa. Although I was lounging, poolside, 5 minutes post-nap, I immediately wanted to dance.
But there was no one to dance with: no man to twirl me, no woman to dance alongside.
The dance floor — positioned atop a flight of stairs — was empty, save the DJ.
Each refrain made it increasingly more difficult to remain seated, but I didn’t want to be the only one dancing because all eyes would be on me. (Perhaps I like all eyes on me when I’m performing, but not in every day life?)
So, I did what any self-confident, independent woman would do — I left.
But then I did what any self-confident, independent woman who has reclaimed her courage would do — I came back.
I really wanted to dance plus I needed to get my workout for the day in. Since salsa dancing is excellent cardio, I marched my 115 pound body up to the dance floor (which was in the middle of the outdoor deck, above the pool), and I began to dance. (Well, actually I stretched for a few minutes because I’m not as young as I used to be and I can’t just workout without sufficient stretching before and after.)
I started with the basic step I’ve performed tens of thousands of times:
I was self-conscious. Were people looking at me?
But I kept my goal in front of me: to get my cardio on.
One song ended, then another, and people were staring at me, pointing. I quickly noticed a guy dancing behind me. He took my hand and twirled me. He wasn’t a great dancer, but it didn’t matter. I had a partner. We salsa-ed on the sea.
He left after one song, but I kept dancing.
Then a woman joined me. She moved like she was Cuban: low, to the ground, and from the heart.
Another woman joined us, also Latina. They sang the lyrics I could only hum to.
Then a woman in her 40s who looked Eritrian joined me. She didn’t really know how to salsa, but she knew how to enjoy the moment. She knew how to grab it for her present pleasure and future memories.
Thirty minutes into my cardio fiesta, a group of about 12 women were dancing behind me. They pushed me to the front and yelled, “We will follow you!”
And they did.
I salsa-ed back, front, they salsa-ed back, front.
I stepped side-side, they stepped side-side.
I turned, they turned.
move after move
I taught, they learned
Once dry bodies gleamed with sweat
Formerly shy bodies danced with abandon
1 hour and 10 minutes after I stepped onto the dance floor, I concluded my cardio salsa class with a crowd of about 18 people (including half a dozen young black kids who were celebrating their high school graduation), and rounds of applause.
As I left the stage to shower, all I could think about is all the fun I almost didn’t have — well that and “Carnival should have paid me for this.”
What I’m left with more than the experience itself is the realization that I almost missed this moment — of being free on the high seas and giving that gift to others — because I was insecure about being the center of attention.
It made me wonder: How many things do we miss out on in life because we are insecure?
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