February 19, 2008
“You’re painting by numbers/Connecting the dots/They don’t have to tell you you don’t call the shots/You jump when they say jump/and you don’t ask how high/’cause painting by numbers they know you’ll get by – James McMurtry, “Painting by Numbers” Salsa dancers look at their feet a lot. For the dancers themselves, this might just be a comfort mechanism, a way of mentally rehearsing the steps before they happen – the peace of mind of knowing what’s just ahead. For the wallflowers, whose primary solace is making catty comments about the grace of the chosen, this type of foresight is both annoying and dull – comparable to watching someone who moves their lips when reading. Like karaoke or NASCAR or ice-skating, the thrill of watching people dance is not derived from how well the participants perform, but rather from how badly they screw up. Sure, it’s a blast doing the “white-man’s overbite” or the “sorority-girl step through” or the “broken-armed robot,” but watching someone butcher any of the aforementioned is even funner. This is precisely why dancing is so popular, not just because it’s entertaining for the people who do it well, but because it’s equally entertaining for the people who don’t. Why? Because dancing is something nearly everyone has tried at one time or another. They might have failed miserably at it themselves, but even the most horrible dancer has just enough dance experience to be an excellent critic. Should you let this stop you from dancing? Absolutely not. You should, in fact, embrace it. Ridicule is an excellent forge of character. If you’ve never endured the merciless ridicule of friends and peers, you probably aren’t living. At some point you have to decide whether you’re going to live your life crippled by self-consciousness and doubt, or at least occasionally give yourself over to bouts of wild-eyed abandon. Or, maybe you just need some training wheels for those fits of wild-eyed abandon. If so, Salsa dancing might be just the ticket for you. For many people, even having fun demands some guidelines, a framework in which to be wild and crazy. Salsa dancing looks pretty wild and crazy. You can find out for yourself this Friday at the Texas Union Ballroom, where UT Informal Classes is hosting the Spring Salsa Dance Festival 2008 featuring salsa, merengue, cha-cha, and probably a lot of other dances you don’t know anything about. Don’t sweat it. From 8 to 9pm there will be free salsa lessons. Once you’ve got the whole salsa thing nailed, one of Austin’s favorite and long-standing latin flavored bands, the Brew, will be cranking out dance music until well after midnight. Even if you think you’re a shitty dancer, it wouldn’t hurt to give this deal a try. If nothing else, it brings the shoegazing thing to a whole new participatory level, that’s for sure.