Birthday dance

It’s my birthday! Midweek birthdays tend to be prosaic, so for fun I thought I’d share the tango clip from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (one of that movie’s redeeming scenes) and a piece I wrote years ago on salsa dancing. No, salsa is not tango, but for me as a wallflower, Pelagia’s tango captures the same exuberance I’ve loved about salsa.

What does it mean to Be Sexy?

Sexiness, to me, has always been about feeling comfortable in my own skin—about taking risks, and doing what both thrills and scares me. I’ve always admired people with passion for what they do, no matter what it is, because the joy they radiate in doing it is contagious. Their enthusiasm fuels my curiosity and inspires me to pursue what fascinates me.

Salsa has intrigued me ever since I took a Latin American music course at UCLA, but I’d never considered myself much of a dancer, mostly because I’d long felt too shy and embarrassed to try it. Self-consciousness would freeze me, and I’d cringe at the mere mention of parties and clubs. Eventually I got into the habit of saying I just wasn’t into dancing, but secretly, some part of me longed to feel the same ease and abandon I’d witnessed in great dancers. That part of me wanted to lose myself in the music and just dance for sheer joy, and somehow the rhythms of salsa crashed through those walls of reserve and fed right into that longing. I vowed then that someday I’d take salsa dance lessons.

I didn’t feel quite ready—and, in fact, didn’t have the chance—to realize that goal, though, until I found a job and moved to the Bay Area last summer. Several months before that, I’d returned from a two-year stint teaching English as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ukraine, an experience which, among other things, tested me dearly but also taught me a lot about myself. I found myself overcoming challenges that made me think, “If I can do that, maybe I can do this,” and with those experiences I think I acquired the strength and confidence that have allowed me to explore facets of life I’d previously thought I couldn’t handle. So when I read about the salsa classes Vera was giving at the College of San Mateo and Redwood Shores this fall, I signed up right away.

Vera’s salsa classes were the first I’d ever taken, as well as the first dance instruction I’d ever had. I came away from the first class exhilarated, and though I’m not a great dancer by any means, still I’ve enjoyed those moments when I can relax in my partner’s arms and follow the rhythm without worrying about every step. And I love the searing joy I feel at watching skilled salsa dancers who love the art form and just look like they’re having a great time. To me, the music and the dance seem infused with all the exuberance I feel for what makes life worth living, and I find that incredibly alluring. Nothing is sexier than the passion, the confidence and pure joy so rife in salsa.

(first published at


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