Tuesday, August 16, 2016

El Cantante

Salsa music has the odd effect of bringing back memories of India.

This improbable geographical reversal has been brought about by our having taken salsa lessons for a few years in Bangalore. Run, equally improbably, by a young Cuban-American who had married an Indian, the classes were exceptional in their intensity and the dedication of our teacher. 

Once every week there would be a motley crew at his studio, eagerly awaiting the lesson in our attempts at...what? For me it stemmed from a long, long fascination with salsa. For others, it was a means to meet people. For still others, it was a way to honor the desire of a partner and thus a grim-but-enjoyable boot camp in the otherwise unthinkable art of dancing.

It somehow helped that the teacher would sometimes throw out casual insults in perfectly-accented Hindi. "Bakwaas!" he'd bark at a particularly egregious right-turn. He was militant about not turning the fans on at a high speed, despite being walloped by the pre-monsoon heat pouring in through the windows. And we loved him. The more he demanded excellence, the more we sweated. For an hour or two each week, all of us transformed into something better than we might have been during the other days of the week. For here, failure was not disaster. Failure was the reason to keep coming back into this other-world of conga, clave, inside-turns, Eddie Palmieri and Celia Cruz, and that voice saying over and over, "From the top! One, two three, five six seven..."

Now, something seems missing when salsa plays in my house every afternoon. It's an embarrassment of riches, this music. And yet, a certain dimension is lost because we left our teacher behind.

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails