Tuesday, March 2, 2010

a salsa soldier

it was another normal saturday night back in the end of 2004... over a nice dinner with a few friends and i learned that there is a new in-thing in town-salsa! with no idea at all what to expect, i ended up at Little Havana - a cuban restaurant cum bar, housed in a colonial style bungalow, situated at changkat bukit bintang. though now they don't organize friday nights latin dance parties anymore. i can still remember vividly my first taste of salsa there! the music is something completely new to me... the beat is swaying for sure... then the dancers... the spinning... completely changed my idea of club dancing! those head banging, loud music on top of the blinding laser beams is never my cup of tea but may be i can do this... salsa! it looks fun and sexy! :)

to strike while the iron is hot. i went straight to Havana Estudio the very next day to find out more info about salsa classes, learning from the dancers that this is where they picked up all the cool moves and this is the best place to start if i'm interested. and i signed up in no time! yes, i was looking to learn something new, to pick up a new hobby but i rushed myself into it so that there is no turning back! i enrolled myself for a 2 month beginner class and all prepare for the worst scenario... give up half way! come on ongtou! it's just 2 month course. sure you can do it! right...!? i must admit that i was doubtful about myself then... my reservation is simple... i can't dance at all... and i'm tone deaf... yes, can sing a little in the bath room... but im really hopeless when it comes to music! i remember one of my uncle who is a qualified piano teacher spotted my long fingers during one cny visit. "you have to let me teach you how to play piano! look at your long fingers! you are meant to be a pianist!" he said. he was so excited... i wasn't convinced but still i gave it a shot. bad decision. my long fingers seem to have problem connecting with my brains, and my eyes and my long legs too... the struggle didn't last long for the PMR was coming so that was the end of my attempt to cennect with music. still many thanks to my uncle for trying :)

salsa is normally a partner dance and it's lively and enjoyable, quite the opposite from the latin ballroom dance which is more formal. i remember i was pretty comfortable with my first salsa class... the environment is warm. the classmates are friendly and my instructor Aisha was super patient and nice too and yes, she can really grooves! the class is one hour and we will normally come earlier to warm up and stay back after class to practise. and just to make sure that i dont embarrass myself in the class, i will practise in the office during lunch time. never mind my colleagues looking at me funny. i was pretty determined! just wanting to keep up with the class! :)

then come the special event! Havana Estudio annual studio party! the highlights was the salsa performances and salsa contest. while everyone in the studio was all excited about the special night and taking part in the contest which was open only to the students. it did cross my mind to take part but then i have been only learning for 4 months then. it was too early, i told myself. i remembered it was the very last day for registration and Aisha asked me casually would i like to participate. i politely replied, "i would love to but i don't have a partner. so may be next time." Aisha just turned and got hold of my classmate, Gina and say, "i found you one." opss...! Gina was really sporting and positive about it. so we were in!

i do have some experience on the stage. i mean i did some story telling and acting in secondary school but... dance on a stage in a competition?! i could manage my own fear but what was really killing me was the thought that i might fail my partner and make her looks bad on the stage! i started to regret and quitting was all over my mind... the pressure was just too immense and suddenly salsa is not fun anymore... 

it's very unusual and very rare for me to loose my sleep over anything. but the night before the big night, i struggled on the bed! how i wish i... twisted my angle now! hey! stop that ongtou! this is so irresponsible! this is no just about me anymore. Gina has been the best partner i could ever asked for and i know i wanna do this! it was tough but i convinced myself...

we were the first couples out on the stage. the dried ice, the spot lights, the crowds, my friends who came just to support me, the routine, the fear of making myself and Gina look silly on the stage, all flooded in my head. the music started and it was like really really long... everything eventually come to an end. it was such a relief! we didn't win but i heard we looked pretty cool out there! :D what an experience! looking back i'm really grateful that Aisha encouraged me and Gina to do it. the experience enriches me not only as a dancer but as a person too :) and yes, salsa is very fun again! ;)

i continue to go to class and find myself in intermediate level after 8 months. i realize i'm not a beginner anymore when Sam and Aisha told us that we are going to perform in Malaysia Salsa Festival and the next annual studio party. Malaysia Salsa Festival is a big event in malaysia salsa calendar, where the very best local and international salsa instructors will gather to conduct workshops and to perform. we will get to dance with them and participants from all over asia too. 

this is the video for my very first salsa performance for the 2007 Malaysia Festival and also the Havana Estudio 9th anniversary celebration. this is the fruit of the labour of tones of hard work and pails of sweat from Sam and Aisha and the team. i remember what Aisha told me after we finished the performance on the stage of MSF, "when you first started in the class, you were marching around like a soldier! and look how far u have come!" haahaha... Aisha never told me i dance(march) around like a soldier before! and she is right i can really be proud of myself! :) despite the short coming in music talent, fail attempts to play a music instrument, i can dance salsa! :) salsa has not only enriches my life, it equipped me with confidence, better posture and a sense of pride. i hope that my humble experience here will convince anyone who think that they are born with two left feet to give salsa a go if the latin beat has being playing in their head for some time already. i think salsa is one of the best gift we can share with our friends. it's cool, sexy and absolutely healthy :) 

a good dance really make life beautiful! the salsa soldier will march on and look forward to learn and enjoy himself on the dance floor. :)

last but not the least, million thanks to Sam and Aisha, their passion and love for salsa are really inspiring. and my teammates too for all their support and cheers. :)

p/s this is the poster i did for Havana Estudio 9th anniversary celebration :)


Marlene Lo said...

You are like another ONG TOU when comes to Salsa. Wa.. the video clip @ 2007 is really GOOD. So now you semakin expert liao loh! :D i still remember yih ling and i watch your "live" nearby KLCC :D

Your uncle is good.. my 2nd piano teacher said: my finger so short - is very hard to be good pianist - unless DOUBLE UP my effort. Adui :(

ongtou said...

haa... i sure remember! our klcc salsa meeting! :D marlene, u can be so proud of yourself! your fingers might be short but ur talent and effort make the different ;)

Mavis said...

I remember I first met you at MSF2007, I was a newbie struggling to perform on the stage too! LOL...I still remember I was a Beginner 2 student when I performed on the stage and I looked really funny! U r a great dancer babe, keep it up! =)

ongtou said...

haaa... i remember! we manage to pull off some lifting trick in the workshop too! not bad right! :D ya! look at u now! u r a seasonal performer now! u make it looks easy with your sexy smile and yes! i'm a fan of yours! :D thanks. will catch u soon on the dance floor! ;)