Me, ready to dance.

The restaurant turns into a club after 9 pm. I thought arriving at 9:30 would bring me onto a dance floor warming up with slick shoes and heels, but instead I waited. For 1 1/2 hours. Could I have gone home? Sure, but I am pretty frugal and had already paid $15 to get in. And I have had too much magic around dance to walk away from its possibilities.

The 8 piece band starts playing at 11:03 pm. The regulars seem to be coming in at the right time, kissing cheeks and greeting their friends. I wonder when they had dinner. I find that I can lean against the bar and watch the band. I am kind of watching, and really, taking in being a minority. The black hair shines under the lights, the fake eye lashes, including my own, twitch like spiders. The clean shaven faces usher their dates in. I realize its Valentine’s Day weekend so the couples make more sense now. I look over to the bouncer who has a safeness to him. Because of this, I feel OK asking him: “What single guys here can dance?” “Does he need to be handsome or just know how to dance?” he says. I chuckle internally and clarify the “just dancing” part. He points over to a man in a black hat before returning to checking people in. I scope him out, tingly at the possibility of getting to speak my first language. I wait for a salsa song before asking him. There were quite a few cumbia tunes. In the mean time, another man in a cowboy hat who came pretty early asks me to dance. I cannot understand one word he is says with the loud music and his slurring, but it doesn’t matter. I am dancing now. I warm through my sweater. He offers to get me some water. He can’t hear my refusal, so I follow him to the bar, and after seeing its a sealed bottle of water, I accept. I say thank you and generously hydrate myself. He walks off and drops all this cash on the ground, so I scoop it up and hand it to him. The drinks seem to coat his fingers, legs, and eyes. A salsa song comes on! I go ask the man in the black hat if he would like to dance. He reservedly says, “Not yet, maybe later.” I go back to standing at my post next to the safe bouncer who had offered to dance with me earlier. I ask if he wants to dance, and he kindly says he has to work and can’t leave his post. I make some silly face trying to express, “I conveniently forgot you have a job to do.” He returns to his work (give that man an integrity bonus $$$). I continue scoping out my next move with slight moments of peace as I enjoy this culture before me. It felt like the Italian mafia. Or at least the portrayals in the movies: family and loyalty. The reserved black hat man walks over in my direction, but almost walks by, maybe fishing for his words or..? I ask if he is ready to dance, and he says he will, but he has just had shoulder surgery. Under the waves of music, I watch as he tries to rotate his left shoulder. I soften in understanding, and follow him onto the dance floor. He doesn’t look very sure, but I am. That I can end the dance or any situation at anytime is reassuring. Always, when I go and try something new, this is the mentality I take with me.

A little backstory. Before I came out this night, I started to say a prayer for my safety. My brow furrowed instead, knowing full well prayer doesn’t protect anyone from life happening on its terms. So I said a prayer for having fun and learning something instead. I thanked God for my safety later…yeah, haven’t worked that one out yet.

Ok, back to the dance floor. So Black Hat Man, still in a coat of reserve, leads me onto the dance floor. He takes my left hand and we dance side to side. I love how versatile salsa is, like it caters to you as you are. He smiles, I smile, the dance uniting us in this moment. And the moment will tell itself what it is. And we are just witnesses to it. He asks me a question that I could not understand. I could have faked hearing it with a smile, but didn’t. What he says is, “Are you copying me?” I realize that I am and respond, “Yes,” not thinking much of it. But then he does one of the most masculine things I have ever seen. He shakes his head and lets me go.

So that I can dance and move in my own way.

I am quick and take this queue as an offering. I start to move and feel and dance in response to the moment. The call within myself, I answer. He smiles even bigger and is nodding now. To me, this moment is absolutely, stunningly, jam packed with all the delicious substance of life. Here is this man, the lead, who has the power to signal me to every move of the dance, to ignite my next move, to set the style of the dance. And he gives the power right back to me. I ignite my own flame and have a knowing that it will burn for all my days. We go on like this for a few minutes, and when the song is over, we walk off the floor with some thank yous and resume our separate standing posts.

I think we danced once more together. Since I had basically traveled to Venus and back with my previous revelation, this time it was like dancing with an old friend. Who knows, maybe learning moments like that can be like a lifetime of learning. I don’t think I will need the lead’s permission next time to step into my own power. And I mean true power. The kind that doesn’t need to put anyone down to rise up.

I remember another right-of-passage salsa dance moment (there have been many) years ago. I was about 22 and went out dancing with my college roommate. The floor was tile, and there weren’t too many people there, but there was a Mexican woman who asked me to dance. She was maybe a little younger than my mom. We start dancing, and I am watching her, almost searching for answers in her. Maybe like BHM. She says, “feel the music.” Like she KNOWS the secret to life. I was quick then too, to accept what she offered and find the music within me, a stirring of primal, timeless, ancient history. I can feel it now.

I hope you feel inspired to dance. I hope you get to see the bridge that dance is. A language that brings people together. I hope you dance like you have the power to stand on your own and feel the music whenever you need or want to.




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Lyndsey Rieple

Lyndsey Rieple

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