Grevel Lindop

Poet, biographer, critic, essayist and writer on just about everything

Talking about Salsa

1950s cars are still common in Cuba but they're disappearing fast

1950s cars are still common in Cuba but they're disappearing fast

Salsa isn’t something you talk about, surely? it’s something you do. But tonight I’m going to break that rule, because I’m off to speak to the Marple Arts Group about what it’s like to dance salsa in Latin America.

In 2007 I travelled through seven countries (Cuba, Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, the Domnican Republic and the USA – well, Miami Fla. to be precise) learning the local styles and dancing in the local clubs. And there are people out there – in Marple and many other places – who may never dance, but who want to get a little of the flavour of what it was like.

It’s made a bit easier by the fact that I can play some of the music, and show some pictures – Latin America and the Caribbean are a gift to anyone with a camera because the light’s so good and the colours so rich.

And when I wrote my book about the journey – Travels on the Dance Floor – I put a lot of care into making the words as vivid as possible. A lot of people who’ve heard me read from the book say that it creates mental pictures which are like a movie in their heads.

Sharing the colours and textures of an experience like that with others is a great delight. And maybe it’s possible to share some of the romance as well. In salsa every dance can be a little three- or four-minute love affair with your partner. It opens your heart up.

Every person you meet, in any country, is a whole new world. And when they’re the opposite sex as well, then they might as well come from another (friendly) planet. Mars, Venus, wherever. To hold that lovely alien in your arms for a few minutes and dance is an amazing experience.

Telling people about an experience like this is a privilege, and the magic communicates itself. I enjoy these talks, and the audiences seem to find them great fun and respond warmly. Maybe some of them have already been inspired to pack their bags and jet off to Cuba or Colombia: places that need tourists and truly appreciate the kind of visitor who makes an effort to get into the local culture.

So Marple here I come, just pausing to choose a good salsa track to play in the car on the way!