Category Archives: Pop culture

A Dance With A Boy (Chapter 2)

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Tamer

I consider my options:

1. I could walk back home. The salsa party will end at 10 and the curfew is not until midnight. Pro: I have time, I can walk from Mohandiseen to Heliopolis. Con: after dancing for three hours, I probably don’t have the energy to walk an extra hour and a half.

2. I could call a cab driver I know. Pro: I don’t have to walk an extra hour and a half. Con: the driver is not picking up!

3. I could try to kill Mostafa for not coming to salsa tonight when he lives beside me and could have easily given me a ride home. Pro: Lots! Con: Lots!

4. I could dance on this Prince Royce song. Pro: I like Prince Royce. Con: I don’t dance bachata.

“Guys! Last song!” I hear DJ Migo shout from behind the music booth as soon as Que le den Candela surrounds the entire room. Two things–One, I love DJ Migo for saving the best song for last because Que le den Candela is my absolute favorite salsa song. And two, I have absolutely no idea what que le den candela means.

As usual, I make my way towards my favorite salsa dancer. She always has a quick smile on her face, she has a great spirit on the dance floor that the dance floor would light and fire up, literally. She is absolutely a crowd’s favorite. For some reasons unknown to me, she just has this ability to stand out even in a pool of faces. Maybe it’s because of her super short hair? Maybe it’s because of the elephant tattoo she has at the back of her neck? Maybe it’s because she loves dancing because she loves dancing. I don’t know. What I do know is that I absolutely love dancing with her and that I have never ever danced with her ever before.

I decide to walk straight to her direction. If my calculation is correct, it will take me about eight steps so I can ask her to dance with me. So, I take the first four steps towards her direction. But before I can take the fifth step, a tall and lanky guy with a shaved head grabs her by the hand. I take the sixth step, and the same guy pulls her to the dance floor. Seventh step. He smiles. She smiles. Great, now they’re both laughing. I take the last step and find myself face to face with an empty chair while my favorite salsera with the pixie short hair dance to the tune of my favorite salsa song. So, I turn around and go back to where I started from.

And as usual, I love dancing with her, but as usual, I have never ever had the chance to dance with her.

Six months, Tamer, and you never spoke to her, never danced with her. Nada, nada, nada, how could you possibly do that?

Ya Tamer, you have been taking salsa lessons at Dansation! Don’t be intimidated!

Who says I am intimidated?

You are intimidated!

Why would I be intimidated?

Because you have a crush on her!

No, I don’t.

Then why do you watch her dance every time you see her dancing?

Because yes you do!

Because it’s difficult not to? Because she is a great dancer? Because she’s really lovely and seeing her smile makes me want to smile too even if she’s smiling at someone else and not me?

See, you have a crush on her!

No, I don’t.

Yes, you do!

“You do or you don’t?” Amr blurts out real loud and real fast that, for once, all the voices in my head stops debating all at once and I am brought back to the now half-empty Bian Caffe. The music has stopped, the dance floor is empty, DJ Migo is packing up, and Amr is still waiting for an answer.

“Huh, what?!”

“Do. You. Need. A. Ride. Home. Tamer.”

“I do. I do! I do!”

“OK, yalla, let’s go!”

Pro of riding with Amr? I don’t have to think about options one to four. Con? Zero! And that is why I start following him outside Bian. But before we can reach the door, I see my favorite salsa dancer walking to my direction, except, she is actually walking towards Amr’s direction.

“Are we going?” She asks, totally ignoring my presence.

“Yes we are!” I hear Amr answer, totally forgetting my presence.

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A Dance With A Boy (Chapter 3)

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Pamela

“Give me your phone, we need to call mum!” Amr says in a rush the moment we are standing outside Bian. “My keys are in mum’s bag! And she already left with her car.”

I give Amr my phone then realize we aren’t alone. One of the new guys at salsa is standing in front of us. And he is looking at me, looking at Amr, and then at me, and then at Amr, and then at me. And it’s weird, because I mean, he is really looking at me. This time he catches me looking back at him. I immediately looked away for comfort.

God, Amr, when are you going to finish talking to mum? This guy is still looking at me and our ping-pong match at looking at each other is getting awfully awkward!

“Mum’s on the way.” Amr says to me, but for some reason, it feels like he isn’t just saying it to me.

A minute passes and Amr’s mum still hasn’t come.

“Mum’s car is red, right?” I ask as I try to look on the streets for a familiar red car.

“No, it’s green!” Amr says.

How can I possibly forget that Amr’s mum’s car is green? Amr and his mum are probably the two people I genuinely love and enjoy seeing at salsa. They are this mother-and-son tandem who always attend salsa parties. They dance with each other, they attend salsa workshops together, they watch salsa shows together, and I think that their relationship as mother and son is much, much sweeter than a kilo of basbousa.

I think I’ve seen mum dance a few times with this new guy who is, strangely enough, still looking at me. And if this new guy has danced with mum, and mum has danced with him, then I shouldn’t feel awkward that he is still standing in front of me and making me more aware than usual that he is still watching me. I trust mum’s judgment in character.

Another minute passes. When is this guy going to flinch? He doesn’t move, except when he starts talking to Amr in Arabic. I don’t like him talking to Amr in Arabic because I feel left out. I feel a void, a lull, a gap, a hole. It’s like I’m here but I’m not here with them. It’s like I know what to do but I can’t do anything other than stand here. So, I reach for my phone and pretend to be engaged to whatever happens to be so interesting on my phone even though I ran out of mobile data and therefore cannot do anything other than stare at an empty blank screen.

I think I could also trust Amr’s judgment in character. So, if he is talking to this new guy too, then this new guy could potentially be on my guys-who-I-say-yes-to list, if only he asks me to dance. Which I don’t think he ever did.

Another minute and the three of us have all gone silent. Amr’s looking out on the street for Mummy, this new boy is still looking at me, I am still trying to not look at him. I wish I can just look out on the street but this new boy is blocking my view of the street.

Another vague minute, and someone just has to talk or I will go deaf in this awkward silence. I decide to make eye contact and before I can stop my mouth, the words are already out. “I see you at salsa but we never danced together.”

“Really?” Amr interrupts before the new boy can say anything. “Pamela is a perfect dancer!”

“Do you think I don’t know that?” The new boy says looking at Amr instead of at me. Amr looks back at the new boy and nods his head.

“How come you never danced with her?” Amr asks over the honking of the cars on the now crowded street.

The new boy looks at me, and then looks back at Amr. “I don’t dance with her, but that doesn’t make me blind.”

We hear more repeated honking before we realize that the honking is directed to us. There on the street is a green car, inside it is Mummy waving Amr’s keys. So, Amr sets off to mum’s side of the road, leaving me on my side of the road, alone, with this new boy.

“How come you never asked me to dance?” I ask again. It’s my turn to make him feel uncomfortable after the looking and the going. I am not going to be easy on him.

“I don’t know. Maybe because I don’t know you, and maybe because every time I try to dance with you, you are already dancing with someone else? How come you don’t ask me to dance?” The new boy says in one casual breath.

“Because like you said, I am always dancing with someone else. And because I don’t know you as well.” I say truthfully.

“Tamer.” The new boy says as he extends his hand to my direction.

“Pamela.” I say as I shake his hand with mine.

“Guys, yalla!” Amr says as he flings his right arm on Tamer’s shoulder and the other on mine.

“Tamer, are you coming with us?” I ask the new boy as I call him by his name for the very first time.

I don’t want to dance with you

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I wish things were simple and direct and honest. If I can speak my mind clearly, without having to filter it, I would bluntly say that dancing with you is so bad I keep fantasizing I’d die of lung cancer just so I don’t have to awkwardly confront you. But instead, I’m left with no choice but to dodge the bullet for as long as I can, hoping that you would always miss and that I won’t get a hit.

You would think, or maybe, I would think, that after someone has told you ‘no’ for the seventh time, you will get it. That, eventually, you will be sensitive enough to realize that you are stepping a little bit too much into my space. You know, like, if my space is marked with a visible bubble, you would see that half of your body has gone way passed my territory. You have this so in-your-face kind of way of suffocating me. What I find amusing though is how you don’t seem to realize that you’re pushing me out of my own comfort zone.

I tried letting you know that I don’t want to dance with you. Whenever you’re heading towards me, do you realize how I have to pretend to be in deep conversation with anyone who I can grab at an arm’s length?

Or when you see me busily forking my meal as if it is the last supper I’m ever eating for the rest of my life, do you really think that I am that hungry? Or does it sound like I’m trying to avoid eye contact and all the slightest things that might suggest I am free to dance?

There are times when I really want to smoke a cigarette, and mid way of taking the lighter out my purse, I would stop and say: “Jen, don’t. Save it for later.”

So, there I would go, keeping that cigarette stick in my hand, for when I see you walking towards me. Do you really think that I just happen to be on a smoking spree every single time you ask me? How callous can you just be?

I don’t want to be rude, and this is why I come up with excuses, hoping that you will take a hint, hoping that we can save ourselves from having this conversation, but look what you did. And, so, here we are.

I know what you’re thinking when you see me. And you are right. I dance close body contact with guys, and I have absolutely no problem with that. I dance close body with guys who know how to dance, who have rhythm within them, who put a great amount of time and effort in learning the basic and progressing more. I dance close body with guys who know proper dancing etiquette. Now, this is where you get it wrong–what I don’t do is dance close body with guys who give me the creeps–whose definition of dancing is reduced to skin on skin friction.

I mean, seriously, dude. That is not dancing. In which universe do you think a girl gets so excited social dancing with a boner? If that universe even exists, please, feel free to migrate.

My friends, who have saved me a lot of times, from you and other people like you, ask me why I can’t just tell you straight to your face that I don’t like dancing with you. Then maybe we can all just stop wasting each other’s time and move on from it, no?

I know at one point, I would run out of excuses to not dance with you. I’ve used every single drop of creativity I have in mind to avoid you. I know that it will only be a matter of time before I find myself in a situation where all my friends will be on the dance floor and I will be left in an awkward corner with no cigarettes to light up, and no dinner plate to finish. Just you and me. Dreadful.

The thing is, I don’t want to make up excuses anymore. I’m tired of hiding in the girls’ bathroom every time a kizomba song starts playing in the background. I’m tired of looking out on the dance floor and making sure you’re dancing with someone else before I can comfortably sit on my chair, and be at peace for the fact that I’m safe for at least a couple of minutes.

So, here I am, saying it loud and clear (and in the nicest possible way I could muster): Please, don’t ask me to dance with you again. At least not until you stop being creepy.

I hope this time, you will get it. And if you do, I will be very grateful. You can call me a snob, you can call me a conceited bitch, you can call me a terrible dancer. But if that’s what it takes to stop this monkey in the middle, be it.

Whew. I’m really glad we had this talk. Thank you for your cooperation. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll go dance with someone else.

On losing weight

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A lot of people asks me how I did it–how I lost so much weight. Well, there is really no tricks or magic here. It’s all hard work.

Most of my life, I’ve been overweight-borderline-obese. I’m short. With my 5’4″ height, I used to weigh a hefty 92 kilos–yes, I know that’s a lot.

I tried everything I could to lose weight. I would go on one fad diet to another. I tried going to the gym, cutting carbs out of my diet, I tried going vegetarian, then Pesco vegetarian, then I tried some weird soup diet, then fruit diet, basically anything I can find on google when I search for ‘how to lose weight.’ After a while though, I see no result happening and I would just feel heavily disappointed, thus, leading me to fall off the wagon.

The problem was that I kept wanting to see results as quickly as possible. I kept wanting my extremely excess weight to disappear like poof, magic, gone!

It takes a lot to understand that it doesn’t work that way.

I used to eat excessively to the point where I can finish two family size pizza, plus a tub of ice cream in one sitting. I binge on junk food and boy do I love McDonald’s. Chocolate and cakes were my best friends! And I didn’t think that anything was wrong with that. I honestly thought there is nothing wrong in eating whatever I desire. On top of that, I was a couch potato too, I spent hours and hours with my eyes glued on the tv screen, and I thought that it was ok too.

I think it was April last year when I found myself face to face with my weight issues. I just gotten sick of it and came to a decision that I wasn’t getting any younger. I need a 360 degree turn in my life.

The decision I made 11 months ago has finally paid off. Now, I weigh 55 kilos and I am very happy about my weight. I don’t plan on losing anymore, I just want to maintain it as it is.

So, how did I do it? Obviously, It didn’t happen overnight. It took a lot of effort and hard work and a strong mind set.

It all started with me accepting the fact that I wasn’t healthy and that I was far away from looking healthy. When I started acknowledging this problem, I was able to do something about it.

I started going to the gym at least twice a week, for an hour and a half each session. I spend the first hour lifting 3-kilo weights and doing various squat positions since my arms and my legs are my problem areas. The last half an hour is spent on the thread mill.

Apart from going to the gym, I dance salsa three nights a week for at least three hours. That’s equivalent to nine hours of cardio every week.

I watch what I eat. I’m quite lucky that Egyptian cuisine offers a wide array of healthy options. Most of the food I eat are tomato based. I eat more spinach too. Whenever I eat meat, I make sure it’s lean. Another source of good protein is lentil which I can never get tired of.

I don’t drink beer. I drink fruit juices more. If I feel like having a soda, I go for coke zero or diet pepsi. I use skim milk all the time, and I get non fat yogurt from the shops every time.

It sounds like a serious diet, but really, it’s all about portions. I still eat ice cream every week. There’s always a non-fat ice cream sitting in my freezer! I still have chocolates, but it’s about consuming one bar of chocolates as opposed to six bars in one sitting.

And yes, I eat potato chips. Tell me one person who doesn’t eat junk food? But I have to say, instead of finishing a whole bag of chips in one go, I actually divide it into three portions.

I eat anything and everything that I want but in great moderation. Every now and then, I indulge myself to cheesecakes and cupcakes!

Now, about my lifestyle, I spend a lot of time swimming during summer months in Cairo. Whenever I am in Sydney, I run on a 6-km path every weekends. I do windsurfing and kitesurfing when I go on my holidays.

Keeping yourself active really makes a big difference.

The good thing about exercising is that you can do it without feeling as if you are torturing yourself. Do activities you love doing. In my case, salsa really helped me a lot.

Also, when you are trying to lose weight, you shouldn’t be feeling as if you are depriving yourself. I didn’t feel that I was depriving myself by any means because I’m still eating anything I want, the only difference is that I go for much healthier options and I watch the proportions.

I think everyone can feel beautiful no matter the size or the shape. Even when I was 92 kilos before, I still felt beautiful. But there is a fine line between a healthy weight and an unhealthy weight.

Right now, I am enjoying the benefits of being healthy. I can run on the thread mill for half an hour and still feel energetic. I can go 6 flight of stairs without heaving or feeling pain in my chest.

I feel much lighter and more comfortable, and shopping for clothes has become such a delightful experience! And actually, I feel much happier too with all the happy hormones I’m getting.

I don’t like it when people call me skinny because I’m not. I’m healthy, not skinny, but that’s a whole new subject that I will have to write about.

I support everyone who wants to keep a healthy weight. It will be a challenge but it is really doable. Set your goals and stick to it and find ways to make it easier and more fun by doing sports or anything active that you love doing or that you can be passionate about.

I guess, it is a gratifying feeling when you know that you have invested in yourself the way you never did before. We all deserve to have a healthy mind and healthy body, and put in mind that it’s never too late to start.

Date a girl who dances salsa

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Date a girl who dances salsa. She is feisty, driven, confident. She dances her way through life in a way that she can dodge a bullet in the most graceful fashion. She is strong–physically, mentally, emotionally. She has arms and legs made solid from hardcore dancing. She’s been stepped on countless times with a 4-inch stiletto, she has fallen face flat on the floor, but that doesn’t stop her from dancing. She knows that like dancing, life continues on with or without music.

A girl who dances salsa is not afraid to make mistakes because she takes every wrong turn as a learning curve. She is a girl with a curious soul and an open mind. She will try bachata or kizomba, hiphop, even rumba. She will say yes to a new form of dance even when she has zero knowledge about it because a girl who dances salsa is a girl who is thirsty to learn.

A girl who dances salsa gives and takes. She knows her favorite moves yet she will allow you to lead her from time to time knowing that in every dance she can learn something new. She is a good follower but that doesn’t stop her from being a good leader. She will tell you right in your face that you shouldn’t have pushed hard, or that you are out of beat. When she does that, be impressed because not everyone can be in-your-face honest nowadays. Even when you are leading her in the dance, she will find ways to make the dance extra special by adding her own touch to it.

Date a girl who dances salsa because she is a girl who has high appreciation for the arts and artists. She loves dancing salsa for its elegant art. She recognizes a good salsa song the moment the percussion starts to beat.

A salsera is a chameleon. She has rhythm within her. She blends in and makes fast connection with everyone and that is the same reason why she stands out. The moment she steps in a salsa event, watch her spend a decent half an hour just giving everyone a welcome hug and kisses hello. Everyone loves her around because she has a heart as big as the dance floor. She has good vibes and positive energy that will lift you out of your sorry mood.

When a salsera asks you how you are doing or how your day went, trust me, she really wants to know. Otherwise, she would not bother asking when she can just pull you for a dance without saying a word. So, take the time to let her know what you have been up to, for all you know, she is taking this as a window to know more about you.

A girl who dances salsa goes where the wind blows. She knows when to stand up for the love of her life, yet she knows when it is time to let go. Years of dancing salsa taught her that some people just comes and goes, the way it always does in rueda de casino. A salsera knows when to take a deep and rise from that deep. And believe me, she will rise to any deep much stronger than the fall.

It is easy to date a girl who dances salsa. Invite her for an 8:00pm dinner and she will be there right on time if not earlier. She won’t make you wait an hour or two because she knows how frustrating it is when a salsa event starts late. She values time. Every minute to a dance means a lot to her, so if you do ask her out on a date, be on time and see how much she will like you more for valuing her time’s worth.

A girl who dances salsa does not crack under pressure. She is in control and can fully take care of herself. She is composed and calm and she never loses herself. Dancing salsa taught her that feeling down doesn’t last too long. Sometimes, all it takes is a good salsa event to get her happy back.

A salsera (no matter how long she’s been dancing for, no matter how complex her knowledge is about the dance) keeps her feet grounded. She appreciates talent when she sees it. She has danced a bazillion times before but that does not get in her head. She is humbled by the fact that there is still so much to learn outside the dance floor. She is moved by the courage of beginners and takes pleasure in seeing them evolve and grow within the salsa scene. At the same time, she has high regards for dancers who have turned the soles of their shoes paper-thin from all those years of dancing.

A girl who dances salsa takes the time to know people. She knows that a salsa party is limited to dancing which is why she will ask you out for coffee where the environment is more chat-friendly. Better yet, if you meet a girl who dances salsa, ask her out for coffee or shisha. She will feel giddy inside and out knowing that you will go an extra length to spend time with her not only at a salsa party where meeting is just out of convenience.

It is easy to recognize a salsera. She is that girl in the gym who is listening to Dile El Amor in full blast while lifting three-kilo weights. She is that girl sitting at a corner with a huge bottle of mineral water because she knows she has to be hydrated if she plans on dancing for long. She is that girl with a spare bag where her dancing shoes are. A salsera doesn’t dance in knee-high boots, or 5 inch heels, or a Converse sneakers. She knows that a good pair of dancing shoes is essential to a good dance and a good party. Yes, she takes salsa seriously, because that is what a salsera does with everything she is passionate about.

When you meet a girl who dances salsa, ask her where the next salsa party is, if you’re lucky, she might even invite you to come. When she does, go. It means she wants you to have a slice of her life. Nothing connects people better than dancing. You feel the passion, the intensity, the chemistry, all these in a dance. You feel feelings. You feel when it’s right, and you can tell when it’s not.

A girl who dances salsa knows that at any second, anything can happen and change everything, and she will always be prepared for it. Nothing takes her by surprise. You can spin her around a dozen times, even more, but she will not get off balance. You can let her go for a freestyle and she will be more than happy to show you what she’s got. She knows that her favorite song will always come to an end and she will take it as a beginning to another dance, another song.

Date a girl who dances salsa because she can feel. She is an emotional creature and she is proud of it. One dance can express so much about a salsera. It exposes her being, her passion, her emotions. It’s easy to tell when she’s happy or sad–her facial expressions, hand gestures, and the way she sways her hips say it all.

Pain and vulnerability is something she takes pride in. These are the two things that makes her human. It satisfies her knowing that she is susceptible to hurt, and yet that won’t stop her from taking the leap. She knows that just like in a dance where she gets elbowed, and squeezed, and criticized and judged, life offers more and even harder challenges.

When a salsera says that she loves you, have no doubts because it is true. She knows that love can take away all her decision-making abilities but she will take the risk, knowing that most of the beautiful dances were never expected.

A girl who dances salsa understands that you are not superman, she knows that you can make mistakes and that you don’t know everything because she is a girl who sings and hums to Latin songs even when she doesn’t know or understand the words. She will accept your past and take you for your present, while looking forward more dances with you tomorrow. She is a girl who knows how to compromise. She knows that a relationship has the same theory as a partner dance.

A salsera is a girl who knows very well that love is and should be built in trust. You will see her dance with all the men at a salsa party but you have to know that there is nothing more she can ever want than to dance with you. In fact, she cannot even wait for the next bachata song to start so she could throw her arms around you already. You have to know that a girl who dances salsa will dance with everyone else but it is and will always be different when she dances with you.

A salsera is a girl who can make you feel different emotions in a span of thirty minutes–carefree in merengue, fun in chacha, sophisticated in salsa, passionate in bachata. That’s how she is, always enthused by the different flavors and tastes of life. She knows very well that some flavors she won’t like, some tastes she will detest but she will try it all with her head held high.

She understands that you can’t be with her 24/7 and that it is perfectly fine. Just like most salsa events that are scheduled, she knows you’ve got your own schedules too. She will give you time to be with your friends because she knows she needs time to spend with her girlfriends from salsa too.

A girl who dances salsa is never shallow. She is everything but that. So don’t worry, she is not quick to judge. First impressions do not impress her. No, it doesn’t work like that for our salsera because dancing has taught her that you cannot grasp someone’s personality or character even after months of dancing with them. She knows that salsa is a social venue where you meet people, but she is smart enough to know that real friendships are made outside the dancing floor.

You can tell that a girl dances salsa by that fact that she can’t stop talking about how much she would love to go to Cuba! If you got all the aces in your hand, she might even ask you if you’d like to go with her. If she does, do not hesitate. She wants you to be there at the happiest moment of her life.

When a girl who dances salsa falls in love, you will be her favorite dancer, you will be the most handsome Latino in her eyes even when you don’t dance salsa at all, even when you have two left feet.

A salsera will not push you to do what you don’t want to do because she knows how annoying it is to be dancing with someone who pushes his style and moves on her. At the same time, she knows that every dancer is their own person. She values identity, and independence, and differences more than anything else. You may not be her cup of tea but she will like you for all that you are because individuality is the very thing that attracted her to salsa in the first place. She will love you all the more for having your own sense of self, because you know what your strengths are and you can recognize your weak points when they’re shown.

Date a girl who dances salsa because when you are with her, it feels as though you are listening to an old song for the very first time. Love her because even when she’s danced with 138 different men, she is with you for the reason that she saw something in you that she hasn’t seen in any of those men. In a way, that should already make you feel good about yourself!

A girl who dances salsa is a girl who loves herself. She knows her worth, she knows what she deserves. She will not change for anyone. She will not allow anyone define who she is. She defines herself. You either love her for her totality or you don’t take anything at all. If you find that she is demanding, it is only because she will not let anyone, even the love of her life short-change her or take her for granted. She knows her rights and she won’t let anyone treat her any less. Rest assured, if a salsera loves you back, she will never short-change you, or treat you any less, or take you for granted because she knows your worth, she knows what you deserve.

Date a girl who dances salsa because she is the kind of girl who is beautiful inside and out. She knows she doesn’t have to prove herself–not to you, not to anyone–because she is her own woman. She is beautiful that way. There is something about her that remains attractive even when she has gone sweaty after three hours of dancing. Maybe it is the fact that unlike other girls who always try to look their best to impress, a salsera knows that beauty is never about make up or clothes. It is what is inside you. She is not superficial. She acknowledges beauty when she sees it but she knows how easily it can fade away.

A salsera is a girl who loves women. Nothing can be sexier than seeing a salsera admire another salsera. She treats every girl as an ally not an enemy. She believes in feminism and camaraderie. She knows that jealousy and intrigue and rumors and gossips exist only for the fascination of junior high girls. She sees beauty in everyone, no matter the size, no matter the shape, no matter the age or color. She knows that she doesn’t have to have a body of a latina to dance very well. She is comfortable in her own skin that she radiates no matter the beat, no matter the song.

A girl who dances salsa knows that life is not a fairytale. She has realistic goals, realistic dreams. She knows she can’t get or have everything she wants and she will not be disappointed. What do you think she does when not one of her favorite songs is played in a salsa event? You think she pouts her lips and throws a silly tantrum? No! She makes do of what she has. She is more than happy to dance in a new song. Sure, it might not be her favorite song, but that won’t stop her from dancing.

It is very easy to date a salsera. She doesn’t want a Prada bag or an expensive perfume. She knows that there is no way her dancing shoes and one liter water bottles will fit in a clutch bag. She knows that the scent of a perfume wears out just after a few dances. But give her your own mix of salsa music, or better yet, make a mix of her favorite Latin songs and see that look on her face that is priceless. She will hold the CD in her hands as though it is the world’s most expensive treasure. She will play it nonstop the moment she wakes up in the morning. That will continue throughout the day until she dozes off to sleep. And in between tracks, she will wish you are there listening with her if not dancing with her. Bravo, you just gave her the perfect gift she’s always wanted.

If you’re feeling a little bit extra cheesy, you don’t have to be flashy. Do it the old-school way. That Sneakers chocolate bar? It works like a charm everytime! It’s a no-brainer, she needs as much energy she can get for an all night of dancing. She will thank you for being thoughtful.

She won’t mind you dancing with other girls because she knows she can trust you. She doesn’t get jealous and there is no feeling of insecurity because she knows very well and will never forget what she means to you.

Is a girl who dances salsa worth it? Absolutely, in more ways than one! So when you find her, keep her. Don’t lose her with your insecurities or worse, out of jealousy, for when she says that she loves you, she means every word. After all, this is a girl who has met so many people at various salsa parties before. If she has chosen you, never let her go because you are more than lucky for the fact that out of all the men she has met and danced with, she fell in love with you. Thank the gods she didn’t choose that one awesome Cuban dancer, or that expat from Spain, or that sexy bachata instructor.

She must have seen something in you that makes her want to dance her way through life with no one else but you. And if you and her will have problems along the way, her judgement will not be clouded by what other people say. She loves you for who you are, not for who you can be, not for her idea of who you are. She loves you because you are you, right here, right now. She doesn’t need anyone to tell her you are not good enough, or that she deserves someone better. If you’ve been reading very intently, I think I have already stressed many times how a girl who dances salsa knows her worth and what she deserves. If she’s with you, she’s with you for a reason. You are someone worthy to dance with even when the music has stopped.

Date a girl who dances salsa. Make her feel that she is the best girl in the world. Let her know that she is safe, that you will catch her should she fall. Make her believe that no matter who she is dancing with or who you are dancing with, you will always be each other’s first and last dance.

Find a girl who dances salsa, because when you do, you’ll start living as though life is a dance floor. And with a salsera’s hand intertwined with yours, there is never a wrong turn. Only music in the background that has gotten much sweeter. And just in case you fall in love with a salsera, and you’re lucky enough that she falls in love with you too, congratulations! You just found yourself an epic partner on and off the dance floor!

All in a year of dancing salsa

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“Yo no se manana…” you know you have been dancing too much salsa when you start singing songs even when you have absolutely no idea what the words or meaning are.

February marks my first year of dancing salsa. Applause! (Queue Baila mi Hermano in the background.)

One year means I have danced at least 500 dances with at least 70 people, and met more than 200 people on at least 25 salsa events. One year also means at least 30 pounds lost and at least 50 liters of water if not diet Coke consumed.

Well, that’s not really accurate, but you get the idea.

I started dancing salsa in Manila on September 2010. Anna, one of my dearest friends was the one who dragged me to my first and last salsa class.

You know how it feels when you know that you are bound to be really good at something the first time you tried it? Well, I didn’t have that feeling. In fact, I didn’t like it at all. I couldn’t follow any of the dance steps and I just felt so inferior by mere watching other people dance gracefully and flawlessly on the floor.

When I moved to Cairo, I decided to give salsa a second try. My first ever salsa night was at Stiletto in Dokki on February of last year. I remember how I was so shy and felt alone. I came by myself. It’s quite frightening when you walk in a restaurant and just feel so left out and disconnected. Everyone’s dancing, everyone’s talking except you. Everyone knows everyone. Your eyes sweep the floor and all you see are awesome dancers who will probably put you to the hall of shame should you dance next to them. And then you are left with nothing but that feeling of wishing you are as good as them. You start dreaming that maybe one day you can dance as beautifully as they do even when you think it is very unlikely. That’s how it felt for me.

I sat on a table closest to the dance floor where there were a few ladies sitting. The first girl I met is Dajana, a German girl who, eventually, became one of my best girlfriends. She is a phenomenal dancer and she lit up the environment for me that first night. She introduced me to everyone and made me feel so comfortable. She brought out in me the confidence in dancing that I didn’t even know I have.

And it was through her that my first dance in Cairo was made possible. She introduced me to Amr, the first guy I danced salsa with in Cairo, and just like Dajana, he is also one phenomenal dancer. What is more admiring about him is the fact that he can make you feel that you are good enough in the dance.

It is only after a few months of dancing salsa that I will realize how there are certain people who wants to shine or showoff in the dance floor, but with Amr, I have always felt that he is the kind of dancer who wants whoever he is dancing with to shine brighter than he does. That, to me, gives him the gold medal!

So, that night, I had one dance and that was it. But I met new friends, who, even after a year, still remain to be my good friends. No time or opportunity wasted.

It’s interesting how the salsa community in Cairo is so small. There are four different places you can go to for a salsa party on different days every week and yet if you go to every single one of them, you’ll find that you’ll be seeing the same people and dancing to the same songs.

Eventually, I came to know mostly everyone who goes to the salsa events and they came to know me. I have become a household name, while salsa has become a slight addiction.

I started breathing salsa. I lived in it. I’m not being melodramatic or exaggerating when I say that salsa keeps me alive because it does. I have times when I feel worse than being sick when I don’t dance in a week, let alone in a couple of months. There is something truly inviting about salsa. It’s the way people sing to every single Spanish song without even knowing the words or the meaning. It’s the way people celebrate their individuality and own style. It’s about the people you meet, their characters and different backgrounds and how they own both the dance and the floor. I guess, most importantly, it’s about the dance itself, the way it can look so sophisticated one minute, and so street the next, the way it can lift your sorry mood and indulge you in moments of pure dancing bliss. I’m sure every salsero and salsera will agree with me on this.

I remember during my first couple of months, every time a guy asks me to dance I would have to say a disclaimer that I am a beginner. It’s quite nerve wracking especially when you’re thinking that this person you are about to dance with is bound for disappointment when he learns you haven’t even passed beginners level. That’s how I used to think and feel and it didn’t help me because it only made me more nervous than I already was, thus, making it much easier for me to screw up the dance. And then I will have to apologize and throw a pity party for myself afterwards.

But it’s really true, that old man saying that practice makes perfect. Through time, I was able to improve and dance so much better compared to when I was just starting. I guess it would be a shame on me if dancing 500 times throughout the year did me nothing good.

Remember what I said about just dancing once on my first night of giving salsa a second chance? Well, now, whenever I go to a salsa party, I come home really exhausted. I would be dancing non stop for at least three hours to the point where I have to politely say no to guys who are asking for a dance. On average, I dance about 25 songs on one salsa event.

So, what has a year of dancing salsa taught me? If anything, it taught me that I met some of my really good friends (and by really good I meant these are people that I also see outside salsa and the same people I trust, feel safe, and most grounded with like Katie, Lucy, Mana, Star, oh, they know who they are) at a salsa party. It taught me that I can be good at something even when I wasn’t good at it at first. I also remembered how I danced salsa on the streets of Zamalek one night in October, with my friends and we are positive that we are the first group of people who’s ever done it (at least in Cairo.) One year of salsa also reminds me that I used to be a beginner who felt so little about herself before, and that I shouldn’t have.

I think everyone who’s learning or trying out something for the first time shares that common feeling of being shy, embarrassed, and little.

I try to talk to them and bring out the confidence they don’t know they have the way my best friend, Dajana, did to me. I like to encourage new dancers and make them feel that they own the dance because they really do. I like dancing to beginners too. If it weren’t for the amazing dancers, who spent their four minutes to dance to a beginner like me a year ago, I would probably still be stuck with my two feet. I like to think that giving my four minutes to a guy who is just learning salsa will do him good eventually. Maybe it will give him the confidence to dance more, maybe it will make him relax and feel comfortable in the salsa scene. Maybe it will make him feel that he’s good enough and that he is accepted and that there is no need to feel shy or embarrassed or small. Maybe this is my way of giving back to the salsa community for all the good parties and events and workshops I had, for all friendships made, and for all the amazing dances and smiles, and bloopers and memories during the last year.

So, here’s to a year of dancing salsa and more!