Gifted. Or nah?

I’m a foreigner--new to salsa, new to Cuba, and completely unfamiliar with Salsa Cubana. I haven’t even been dancing that long! What if I can’t keep up and I get rejected internationally?! 

There was a lot of doubt going through my mind. Nevertheless, I was beyond excited to practice salsa in the place where salsa originated. As soon as I arrived to Cuba, I asked around until I found a few local salsa studios and clubs. Five minutes into my first dance session and I was hooked. I ended up spending the majority of my trip in these same couple of studios.

After 12+ hours of 1-on-1 dancing with Cuban pros, one of them complimented me on picking up new "figuras" or combinations so quickly. His exact words--as translated by me--were, “Taylor, you definitely have a gift in dancing."

Me? Gifted?! I certainly don’t feel like I have a gift. Yet somehow here I was in the heart of the salsa capital of the world with a *very attractive* pro Cuban salsa dancer telling me that he thinks I have a gift in dancing. Is this real life? Ecstatic is an understatement.

One week later, at my usual salsa club in LA, some guy starts dancing with me and halfway through the song he asks if I went to the free class earlier.

- "Yes, I took the class earlier today."

- "Oh...So then is today your first time ever dancing?"

- "No."

- "Wow, really?...."

*awkward silence*

If his words weren’t condescending enough, his body language expressed his disappointment in dancing with me--clearly I couldn’t keep up. When I tried to stop dancing with him, he refused to leave me “stranded” on the dance floor--his words, not mine. So we reluctantly finished the song and I immediately headed for the door. I no longer wanted to dance at all anymore. Any confidence I’d gained the week before in Cuba instantly became overshadowed by a renewed feeling of inadequacy.

Dancing Salsa Cubana with a foreign hottie in Havana is exciting. Having a pro validate me as a dancer is even more encouraging. Continuing to count my steps everyday in order to learn basic combinations is not exciting. And having some dude tell me he’s only dancing with me out of pity is even less encouraging.

I have to challenge myself to not depend on outside approval for motivation. If my motivation is solely based on compliments, then of course I’ll want to quit once I start getting insults.

Regardless of what so-and-so thinks of my skills--and whether or not I feel like I have a gift--the only way to improve as a dancer is to choose to keep dancing.

In case you want to see the struggle for yourself--here's a video from one of my classes in Havana:

I kept working on that ending til I finally got it.

Moral of the story is to just keep going...

© taylordmills 2017

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