Salsa Adventure in Costa Rica

By BobbyRica | August 13, 2012

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Here’s something we haven’t had for quite some time, a contributing entry from a reader who has gone to Costa Rica. He had requested anonimity, so we withheld his real name and changed the other characters’ names. Strangely enough, his friend is also an acquaintance. When the friend learned who this letter came from, he only had good words for him. I guess this is all legit.)

I arrived in Costa Rica to attend a wedding of my best friend, Juan Miguel.

I have known Johnny (not his real name), as I fondly call him, since they moved to Miami, Florida when we were 10 year olds. We are neighbors and have attended the same grade school and high school. Their family is from San Jose, Costa Rica. Our parents easily became friends, with my mom becoming the godparent of Johnny’s only sister and sibling, Bianca.

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Johnny took up engineering in California, while I went to New York to study law. We remained good friends all these years. One night after a year he visited me in my law office in Buffalo, he called me and told me he was getting married to a beautiful girl he met in his native land of Costa Rica. He wanted me to be his best man and I readily agreed, but I needed to fly to Alajuelita in the province of San Jose.

Six months after that call, I took a plane and filed a leave of absence for two weeks to take some R&R at the same time. Johnny insisted that I stayed in their ancestral house, which is magnificently built considering it has been standing there for almost a century now. Things happened so fast because I was introduced to a lot of Johnny’s relatives, who teased me that I must have come prepared for several nights of festivities and dancing they have prepared for the youngest male of their clan.

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I was taken by surprise as I could deal with the festivities, but not with the dancing portion. I barely know some steps and, to say the least, they were better shown inside one of the dimly places in New York’s bars. Luckily, Johnny has a cousin who teaches Latin dances. Too bad Maria is already married because she is one beautiful lady whom any guy would easily like. But I like her more when she started teaching me the basic steps of salsa.

Salsa, Maria explained passionately, is a syncretic dance that has its origins in Afro-Cuban dance, particularly Afro-Cuban rumba, and the Cuban Son dancing in the 1940’s. I marveled at Maria’s expertise; I learned about salsa’s Son Montuno beat origins with the dancing influences of Guaguanco, Mambo and Danzon.

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When Maria started teaching me the basic steps such as the three weight changes or steps in four-beat measure, I started to get hooked. Of course, I struggled with a step called “break,” wherein I needed to alter my direction. But I overcame this with Maria’s able guidance as we completed a basic step cycle or 6 weight changes in an 8-beat combination. Maria improvised some of the steps so she said I won’t have a hard time since we barely had two days to practice before the night of dancing begun.

Boy I tell you I had never moved my hips liked that. I should be doing the Cuban hip movement a lot because I felt so really good. I have also come to know about Maria’s “lead” cues when her arms moved so I knew whether the step I would take would be in open or closed position. We held hands when we turned, putting our arms behind the back. I also put my left hand on Maria’s shoulder, while her right hand rested on my back; that was a closed position Maria told me. She was the leader. I was the follower.

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I tell you those two days were really enough because when the official dancing begun I just let my body moved to the salsa beat. It was an incredible experience I would never forget. I still do some salsa dancing once a week, but this time I am in New York and I look forward to every class especially after a hard day’s work.

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