first_imgBaldwin stresses that it’s not about anyone being less equal – it’s about acknowledging and enjoying the differences while moving to hot music. “There’s things that are just as true for the dance as they are in life,” Baldwin says. “The time we live in now, it’s about me, me, me. Where this is like, no – it’s not about you. It’s about your partner.” Talk like that makes me think salsa training should be required of every citizen, much like mandatory military service is in other countries. Chivalry could use a little CPR, and if done right, it’s bound to get ya some good mouth-to-mouth. In his Friday beginners class at Mama Juana’s Latin Lounge in Studio City, Baldwin lines up the men and women, one of them being me, on opposite sides of the floor. After a brief salsa tutorial, he tells the men to grab a partner. There is an awkward moment of motionlessness, as if time zapped a Taser gun. “I don’t want to see this,” Baldwin says as he waves over an invisible woman with a cool-dude gesture. “No! Go ask her! Take the lead.” The music begins, and Baldwin doles out some tips for the women. “First, ladies, give up control. Give us four minutes of the song to lead. Guys, you do those four minutes well, and she’ll give you four more minutes,” he says with a twinkle. Salsa king Baldwin then approached me, having noticed my untrained shoulders’ rogue movement during a basic turn. I was perfectly eager to give him more than four minutes to lead my limbs, but I’d take the few quick spins I got before he was off to tame other feral newbies. The goal of the dance is for two people to move as one. Spicy! Baldwin says once they master it, like with any good couple, it’s no longer about who’s leading and who’s following. It’s about little signals they send to each other in order to keep the dance going. “Don’t just do a step. Bring her along with you,” he says. Without getting some structure to support the sensuality, count on being salsa roadkill. But it’s OK to stumble when you’re learning the right moves. What’s sexier than wanting to improve, on or off the dance floor? It’s tougher for the guys, who have to lead. “Certain things are expected of the man, and if you don’t do it, the dance will collapse. The same with relationships,” Baldwin says. Later that night, the salsa king asked me to dance, putting his feet at risk of being trampled. Once I had the basics down, he gently took my wrist and raised it above my head, then guided my hand to brush over my face and down my neck. “Feel it,” he instructed, with a firmness that I trusted was there only to make me better. He did it again, and smiled when I “felt it” properly. And mmmm … it felt good – I’d like to feel it all day. Salsa ain’t no tap dance. It’s about passionately committing to the moves with your partner, even if you’re nervous about where that might take you. Seems like a good way to dance through life as well. Amy Tenowich is a freelance writer, finishing her master’s degree in journalism at USC. Write to her by e-mail at [email protected] local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! COURTSHIP is a boat that has long since sunk. Romance has morphed into “hooking up,” and the playing field is like a crowded dance floor in a dank nightclub. There’s no shortage of dancers who will grind haphazardly on one another, moving from one gyrating body to the next. Without so little investment as eye contact, it’s convenient to dance away mid-song and into the gravitational field of another swiveling pelvis. The dancers don’t even have to be skilled to secure partners, and DWI – dancing while intoxicated – is seen as completely acceptable. Sober up, boys and girls, and get a taste of the salsa dance. Something long lost in male-female relations is revived in only a few steps and twirls. You’ll be saying “caramba” before your hips are even fully unleashed. “The dance addresses our most primitive natural instincts,” says Ken Baldwin, who’s been dancing and teaching salsa for 10 years. “The way this dance works is the man has to think and the woman has to feel. Can you imagine leaving it up to the man to do the feeling? There would be no dance!” last_img