A few weeks after I started taking Kizomba classes with Dsantos VT, I began to hear buzzing about a “dance social” at ArtsRiot. “Are you going to the social?” I was asked, and I nodded my head, even though I had no idea what that meant.
If the social, whatever it was, allowed me to practice my newfound passion for partner dance, I was sure that I would want to be there.
So, on a Saturday night, I showed up at ArtsRiot, feeling a bit awkward, and unsure of what to expect. The evening began with a quick class, in which the instructors showed us the basics of salsa, merengue, and bachata. After each snippet of information, leaders and followers partnered up to try out what we’d learned.
I danced with people I’d met in class, and people I’d never seen before. Every few minutes we switched partners, with a quick high five and “booty bump” (more like a hip bump) to thank the person with whom we’d been dancing. By the time the class was over, I had a few handfuls of new acquaintances, and had stepped, marched, and spun around a good percentage of the room.
And then the party started. The DJ played a song, people asked each other to dance, and suddenly, heels and toes were tapping on the ground, skirts were twirling, and every once in a while, giddy dancers would bump into each other, apologize or smile, and get back into the rhythm.
I was hooked, but I was also shy, and I didn’t ask many people to dance. I watched from the sidelines as people tried out salsa styling, mixed up traditional Dominican bachata moves with the body rolls and dips that characterize “sensual” bachata, and closed their eyes to dance kizomba, which involves, as Dsantos teacher Jon Bacon would say, striving to move with your partner as if one of you is a hand, and the other a glove.
Since that night at ArtsRiot in 2015, I’ve danced in Portugal, Boston, Montréal, and on a beach in Mexico, but mostly, I dance right here in Vermont. In 2016, I became a member of the Dsantos VT dance team, and love introducing new people to what we do.
Here are some things I’ve learned about the kinds of socials that we, at Dsantos VT, host: 1) Anybody can lead, and anybody can follow. It’s up to you! 2) The goal is to dance with as many people as possible, especially those who are new, or maybe feeling a little shy. To do so, we generally switch partners after each song. 3) We’re here to have fun, not to be perfect. 4) Showing up with a great attitude, and smiling at your partner, is the most important part of the dance.
Partner dancing is much more than a fun evening activity (although it’s that, too). Dancing is a way of sharing culture, of building community, of accessing touch, of constantly learning, and of bringing joy to other people, with four-minutes of connection, and attention, and a big smile.
I can’t wait to dance with you, tonight!