It was a little over a year ago where I challenged myself to learn a new skill every year from now until. Outside of learning to swim in the year 2019 (which you can discover in previous posts around my triathlon journey), I also wanted to learn how to bachata.
Bachata: n: a genre of romantic song and dance of the Dominican Republic performed with guitars and percussion
Now I know what you are thinking. “Was there a lady that provoked such action to learn such sensual acts of motion?” I will tell you that there was. But, it is not what you think. Let me explain.
The Summer of 2018 was coming to an end, and with a new school year upon us I decided to spend quality time with good people who would find themselves back in the books within a few weeks. One friend however had different plans. She had secured an opportunity in the Dominican Republic where she would be teaching math. And with conversation continuing, she highlighted that she wanted to learn bachata so that she could indulge in DR culture. I thought back to my knowledge of the dance and couldn’t help but smile. I knew bachata! I took a class during my time in college after some members of my capstone team who were part of the Salsa Club invited me to an event. We were nearing the end of our time together and I promised that I would attend at least one session. After roughly 10 minutes, I seemed to pick the four-count dance up like clockwork.
And with my love of dancing getting the best of me, I said that I wouldn’t mind going to a dance club with her for moral support, but more selfishly to bust a move or two of my own. The time finally came where I received that fateful text with a time, location, and one final check if I was sure. With the swipe of a finger and a message or two later, it was on. I remember ubering to the location and I told my driver the damage I was about to do on the dance floor. He said to save room for him. Whether he was just a nice guy or just wanted a tip, I was figuratively floating from all the hot air in my head. I grounded myself upon getting out of his Jeep and made my way to the door.
Taverna Plaka on any other day is a Mediterranean Restaurant with solid reviews and affordable food. But every other Tuesday, a portion of the joint is transformed into a dance hall. In the dimly lit room, I found my friend sitting at the bar. The festivities had started just 20 minutes ago and no one was on the dance floor. Everyone waited for someone to make a move. And I just couldn’t contain myself. “You ready?”, I asked as I got up out of my seat. I walked with my friend to the main area to have her whisked away by another guy. Now in uncharted territory without a familiar face, I froze.
“Would you like to dance?”
I turned to my right to find a young lady asking me. With a smile, I turned to her and locked eyes. And we started the 4 count. And another. And yet another. After 30 seconds into my first dance, I could feel the disappointment cutting straight through me. You see, the reason the class that I had previously taken was so seamless was because we only learned the steps. And my ignorant self who failed to entertain that there just may have been more to this dance looked like an absolute fool. Her eyes trailed as she longed for more. I followed them to find them locking in on a true veteran. I marveled as he spun and dipped and switched the tempo all while not missing a step. And with a stutter step, I regained the attention of the lady in my hands. “Sorry.”
The song ended and she gave me a pity hug and disappeared into the crowd. What just happened? I realized that I was in over my head. In seconds, another unrecognizable song came on and everyone reassembled with new partners. I was struck with confusion. In bachata, every song switch comes with a change in partners and if you didn’t act fast, you were out of luck for that song. I started to study the floor to find my next “victim”. I needed someone who was at my same caliber. I also studied some of the other other guys and scrapped some dance moves together. In the corner of my eye, I saw my friend being spun so eloquently by her partner.
With the song switch, I quickly made my way to someone as novice as me just to be blindsided by yet another determined individual who asked me to dance.
“This is my first time dancing. You think you can teach me something?” This was my only hope.
“Well, no not really. The guy always leads and it is hard for me to teach that to you,” she stated as a look of concern filled her face. More disappointment was ensued from the bland dancing and untimely spins. I tried this approach once more before retreating to the corner of the room. If you would have been in the room at that time and looked at that particular corner, it would have looked like I was talking to myself. And I was. I attempted to hype myself up and encouraged myself to get back out there. But the damage had been done. I was devastated.
I hugged the wall of the hall and made my way to the only exit in the building. It felt as if everyone paused to watch me open the door, but I refused to look back. While calling on an uber back to my comfort zone, my friend rushed out to check on me. She urged me to come back in, but I saw pieces of my pride leaving a paper trail back to the scene of the crime. I couldn’t lose anymore. With a hug and a goodbye, I urged her to go back and enjoy the rest of the evening. I was silent on the ride home and just thankful it wasn’t the same one that got me there in the first place. As I walked into my room, a cloud of frustration met me.
I slammed my pillow. How could I be so naive? I managed to stumble into the hottest bachata spot in Atlanta and didn’t even know it! I looked like a complete goober… Ugh! And it was at that point where I told myself, “You are going to learn that dance whether you like it or not.”
With 2019 fast approaching, I figured out a extracurricular to invest in. It was time to learn a new trick.