About this writer
For five minutes, I shall live a lifetime: in five minutes I will spot her, I will pursue her, I will court her and I will conquer her heart. For five minutes she will reject my advances with utter revulsion then fall into my arms in complete surrender. For five minutes we shall live a life full of so much passion that generations yet unborn will whisper my name and hers in prose and poetry. For five minutes, we shall be on the dance floor, dancing to Latin music.
Welcome, to the world of Latin ballroom dancing!
Oh, I love to dance! In the dance world I have visited the boisterous hip-hop in the North and the narrative laden contemporary dances of the South. In the West I encountered the vigorous gyrations of the Lingala that was the soundtrack to my childhood while in the East, my body ached after a night of disco. I have sampled all dance styles and I can tell you that nothing, absolutely nothing, beats the passion and the sensuality of Latin Ballroom dancing.
Allow me to take you on this exciting journey that I have taken countless times. Let’s go to a land where romance is the staple and passion the only pastime. Here, boy meets girl and fires of desire are instantly lit. They lead their lives step by thrilling step and death’s only presence is the short pause between each song.
We begin with the Samba, the Brazilian dance of celebration and joy. The Samba was first danced by slaves as a solo dance and today it is still danced in the same carnival manner during celebrations. In 1930, someone had the good sense to urbanize it into the rousing ballroom dance it is now.
In the Samba, I lead her to the dance floor and we move in unison in quick steps, sometimes slowing down, as the percussive Brazilian music would dictate. She is wearing a dress that is a fashion paradox: it conceals nothing, and reveals even less. It accentuates every roll of her hips and every wave of her waist. I move in for a closer look but just then the music picks up tempo and she turns to face me no more; so I take her right hand in mine and place my left hand on her tummy and we perform the Samba roll. Any closer interaction would have to wait for a different dance.
The music slows down, she turns and looks at me, shrugs her shoulders as if to ask: what now? With a sly smile I crook my right arm and take her right hand in my left: it’s time to Tango.
This fascinating dance has rather unglamorous origins. They say that it started with the cowboys of Argentina, who after a hard day’s work would walk into the saloons with knees bent from sitting on the horse for too long. Since they had not taken a bath, the girls they asked to dance would dance in the crooks of their arms and hold their heads back. The girls would place their right hands on the man’s left hip to look for payment for the dance.
I dance a lot closer to her now and we paint circles all over the dance floor. I lead, she follows. The accomplice that was the bouncy Samba has abandoned her and in the agreeable prison that is my arms she finds respite; before I suddenly dip her; and hold her body just inches off the ground.
Right on cue, the music slows down even further as I pull her to her feet. To punish me for the rather violent end to the Tango, she slowly walks away, her hips drawing figures of eight. She is doing the Rumba.
The Rumba is considered the ‘grandfather’ of all Latin dances. To ‘rumba’ loosely translates to ‘partying’ and this party is like no other. The Rumba is the slowest, most sensual dance of all, generating intense scenes of passion. She stops and sways slowly from side to side; I match her sway for sway. I look penetratingly into her eyes and like flowers we bend to the breeze that is the slow allusive music. But suddenly, she breaks my hold and quickly walks away.
I’ve had enough of her teasing! It’s time to show her whose world she’s living in. It’s time … for the Paso Doble.
The Paso Doble is the dance of the Spanish bullfight, where I am the matador and she is my cape. In the Samba, Tango and Rumba I played to her wiles, but here, in the Paso Doble, I stand my ground and dare her to come at me. Gone is the revealing dress that clouded my judgment; in its place is a skirt so long she has to hold it up by the hem. The music is faster, the steps are bolder and my face is a mask of arrogance and pride. I stamp my foot and command her to come before me, then move slightly to the side, so that she misses her mark. I take her by the hand and twirl her around me before finally laying her at my feet, for her, I have finally conquered.
Latin dancing is a momentary expression of a perpetual fantasy: I get to hold her, like the beat of her heart is my reason for living; let her go, like my heart’s being ripped from my chest. I pull her back, like I’m going to promise my life to her, right there on the dance floor. Then finish, like I’m the only man she will ever want.
Nahabi Wandera is a Kenyan ‘lover or words’.