Salsa Dancing, A Love Story By Joaquin Magos

By Joaquin Magos

The Salsa Club at UCR Re-founding Vice President  2012-2013


For me Salsa Dancing is a love story. Not one of those love at first sight type of things but it did help me find love and it has made me smile.

Just to start every Latino thinks they already know how to dance Salsa, but they’re wrong. Salsa has steps, it has a fundamental foundation that must be learned before anyone can say they know how to do it. I learned this from watching Marco Segovia teach. He is a true master, he needs a Jedi robe, but probably a red one or some kind of shiny black one because that’s more Salsay.

So I’ll say this: I first saw real Salsa at a club in Fresno called The Starline, it was a Thursday night.  I went out that night with my two brothers, Bean and Mikey, and Frankie, a cousin of mine. We were trying to find something new to do, but we weren’t old enough to drink yet or to get into the types of clubs that allowed that so we found this place that was eighteen and over in Fresno’s Tower District, The Starline.

The club was dim, people were split in two groups, men on one side, women on the other. Two instructors stood inbetween the two groups, I could tell they were good because of the white dance shoes the guy wore and the short cut of the dress that she wore. Beyond the people a fedora wearing DJ connected wires on stage. Small circular tables and wood black wood chairs lined the right side walls while red padded booth seats lined the left side. We walked in and were asked by the instructor, a man named Robert Taylor, to join the lesson.

I stepped forward with my left foot, then forward again with my right foot, something that I see a lot newbies do now, I was a beginner once too that’s why I’m so patient. When we paired up I was so nervous all I could do was stare at my feet, the back of my jeans became a towel for my nervous palms, the music intimidated me, every step my feet took frustrated me. I wasn’t able to get the hang of the Salsa steps that first time, which really hurt my feelings I always thought I was a good dancer so I was pretty bitter when I didn’t immediately catch on. I didn’t go back to the Starline for two more years, always deterring my brothers and friends from picking that place with a myriad of excuses which all amounted to a cover up of the real problem, I was afraid to go because I was insecure about my dancing skills, I didn’t want to look like a fool.

It was in the summer when I returned to Salsa, it was because my brother Mikey had a really fun drunken night, which I was unfortunately not a part of, he met this girl there and they exchanged numbers. The big pitch he made, the one that got me back there, was that this girl he met had lots of friends, the depth of her groups cuteness was like the depth of the New York Yankees starting lineup every starter was good, every chick was cute. After that night I asked my brother to teach me so that I wouldn’t feel dumb anymore. Mikey was the best dancer I knew. He was the type of guy that could hear the music and just know what to do, circles of people would gather and watch him dance at high school dances and quinceneras. We did more arguing than learning, but at least I got to lead during his lessons. Salsa on Thursdays became a weekly thing for me, I’d tag along with my brother and now I would actually pay attention to what was going on in the lesson, cute girls are a pretty good incentive.

When summer ended my brother and I enrolled ourselves in Dance 15: Social Dance, a ballroom dancing course in the Fresno City College catalogue that we were drawn to because it was an easy two units and because it had the word Salsa in the course description. We spent most of the semester on Rumba, Fox Trot, Waltz, American Tango, and Swing, then finally towards the end got to do some Salsa. It was here that my little bit of knowledge shined and impressed the people in the class that only knew salsa as a spicy chip dip. This class was an ego booster for me and pushed my confidence to a new plateau, I made the decision to stick with Salsa making it A Thing I Do.

Two years later I transferred to UC Riverside. I was looking for a way to make friends, but I wasn’t having much luck. I saw the Beginning Salsa Dance class among the courses offered at the Student Rec Center and signed up thinking maybe I can use dance to make friends. That’s how it happened. I met my buddy Danielle in there and for most of my first year at UCR we raced down University Avenue to pay ten dollars to Salsa dance, thinking back that was pretty expensive, but we became diehards. I danced in the Rec Center class on Tuesdays, danced at Sevilla on Wednesdays, danced at the Riverside Plaza on Saturdays, I was committed to Salsa.

The next year I came back for school and went right back into the Intermediate Salsa Class. Now, I was dancing in there with friends, soon after I became an officer in the Salsa club. And during that time I found the Love that I mentioned way back at the beginning. I had seen her several times before but I didn’t know she was the SHE I was looking for until Salsa showed me. Every dance with her brings a smile. So my Salsa story is a love story, a happily ever after one.

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