I grew up in a highly centralized communist
state, where many things were free but in a limited supply. To teach
a kid how to dance cost almost nothing: the government through its multiple
agencies allocated funds to educational, cultural, and art establishments.
Yet, an opportunity to learn how to dance was open to only those children
who exhibited required skills for dancing. Limited resources necessitated
auditioning for dance classes and led to professionalization of arts.
With regard to dancing it meant that one had to either excel in dancing
at the almost professional level or stay away from dancing all together.
As a child, I happened to display more musical than dancing talent and
was relegated to the musical school instead of the dance
studio. Yet, a strong desire for dancing never vanished because, at
that time, it was nourished by a belief in that socially imposed standards
of graciousness and beauty look could only be achieved through dancing.
Thus, my initial love for dancing was externally driven.
It took me years to develop internal appreciation of different forms
After the fall of the communism, many schools and studios were privatized.
Having lost governmental funding, they had to find ways to finance their
activities. Teaching classes to anybody who was able and willing to
pay was the only route to survival. It was only in 1998 when I got a
chance to enroll in ballroom classes for adults. When I arrived into
the US in 2000, I intended to continue my ballroom experience with the
Purdue Ballroom team. However, rigidities of dancing style as well as
a required participation in competitions drove me away from the ballroom.
Instead, I turned to lindy-hop and swing. It was not the dance itself
that was appealing to me but the people I danced with. Dancing with
the swing club helped me to establish strong friendship ties and, importantly,
it laid down a very strong foundation of leading/following techniques,
balance, feeling of the center, and other fundamentals of
dancing. When the people I danced with graduated, I found myself loosing
interest in lindy-hop. This is when I had my first Salsa dance during
one of the Latin dance parties. It seemed fun and easy. Weekly trips
to Chicago for swing jams and practices paid off I picked up
the footwork very fast and had no problem following the patterns of
an intermediate level. Very soon, I was offered to help with the instruction
for a newly established Purdue Salsa Club.
I have danced Salsa for only 3 years. I started as a beginner, and moved
into instructing Salsa classes at different levels, leading the Purdue
Salsa club, and, recently, making first attempts at choreographing performances.
The factor determining this swift entry of Salsa into my life was the
perfect match of the character of the dance to my personality combined
with personal interest and admiration of my Salsa teacher. A mind of
a scientists and occupation of a teacher led me to explore the dance
from different angles. Having reached a certain level of Salsa dancing,
I realized that the only way to improve further was by returning to
the fundamentals of dancing techniques, posture, engagements
of right muscles, etc. I also realized that I could not enjoy and appreciate
the dance unless I knew its history and essence. Thus, I turned to ferreting
out the roots of Salsa rhythm, tunes, and the past of Salsa music and
dancing. Salsa has become an important part of my identity. I have managed
to fuse it with daily routines of my private and professional life.
Dancing salsa, exercising, walking light, and sitting straight reinforce
one another. The inspiration for work comes after a night of good dancing
or Salsa classes and practices. Seeing people opening up through the
dance or finding friends and significant others through the Club that
I lead makes my life more meaningful and fulfilling.
INtoSalsa, Indy's premier Salsa guide