Find us on Facebook
As the Zumba fitness phenomenon continues to take the nation by storm and Strictly Come Dancing becomes prime television I decided to embrace the roots of Latino dance in Colombia. The well renowned reputation of Colombia’s tropical party vibe couldn’t prepare me for the buzz of South American culture. The importance of dance is fully ingrained in Colombian society and Salsa is an integral part of the vivacious civilisation. Watching my host family share in the joy of teaching and learning the intricacies of the native dance across the generations was truly one of the highlights of my trip.
My first experience of Salsa dancing came as I stepped off the bus after a thirty hour journey to Ibague, a small city in the heart of the country close to Cali, the home of Salsa. I was quickly whisked off to a party and thrown straight onto the dance floor where boys and girls alike were swaying their hips to the 8 beat rhythms. With no sense of embarrassment or self-consciousness the Colombians spun from partner to partner in what seemed to the untrained eye as a choreographed, and perfected routine. Being dragged into the midst of an entirely synchronized dance floor was undeniably terrifying considering my typically British uncoordinated and inflexible moves. The one thing that struck me was how liberated the people seemed as they danced to the incredibly infectious music unlike in Britain where dancing with gusto is typically fuelled by inordinate amounts of alcohol.
My love of Colombian culture continued at the desfile the following week, which reinforced the importance of dance and celebration amongst both young and old. The carnival lasted all day and street performers donned regional costumes from all over the country and danced. sung and celebrated their heritage. The unification of all generations by means of dance was quite humbling and it was refreshing to see how entertained the children were without gadgets or the latest technologies. Men, women and youngsters all tapping their toes and swinging their hips to the frenetic beat of the music in an al euphoric atmosphere were unforgettable.
I found evidence of the generational love and devotion to Colombian music closer to home amongst the members of my host family. Waking up to the sound of Reggaeton or Merengue music blaring from the bedrooms of the youngest members of the family proved how embedded music is in society there. Their relentless attempts to help me learn the basic steps became somewhat embarrassing as even the seven year old could body roll to the beat with her Latino hips swaying to the music.
Taking it upon myself to evoke some sort of pride from the family and to tick it off the bucket list I enrolled in Salsa classes at the local university. Despite a few glances of despair as I slowly got the hang of the basic steps I was soon thrown into the arms of an unsuspecting Colombian to guide me through the more complicated moves. It soon became clear why the natives are so proud of their dance culture; it is a common skill amongst all and further enhances the Colombian identity. I can only marvel at the talent of these people whose passion for Salsa is a precious gift received by anyone lucky enough to be swirled around a dance floor, no matter how big or small, in the Salsa capital of the world.
The UoB Linguist Magazine
Guild of Students,
University of Birmingham