Latin Dancing in SVG

28 Jan
Latin Dancing in SVG

One two three, five six seven; one two three, five six seven…..The instructor softly repeated this rhythm as she gently but firmly guided my right hand and leg backward and then forward, repeating the same on my left side. It was tedious and a bit awkward: after all, I was only supposed to be observing, or I wouldn’t have worn my beach slippers! After a few minutes watching the class, the instructor had plucked me from the sidelines and put me right in the middle of her beginners. Now I was doing this constant one two three, five six seven… and lo and behold, I was getting it! Elation!!!

This was my first day at LatinPassionSVG (LPSVG) and my entrance into another universe of sorts. At first, my expectation was simply to learn to dance to salsa (#1 on my bucket list); little did I know I’d also be learning other types of dance, joining the ranks of a highly supportive group, and facing head-on the anxiety of performing in front of an audience. All this aside, the first few months were challenging: the rule of “men lead, women follow” was very frustrating, especially for one accustomed to soca music and the freedom to do whatever I want whenever I want! Not being naturally expressive or flexible didn’t help either. After a few months of hearing “You need to relax” and “Stop leading and let me lead you!”, my frustration levels peaked and I felt ready to give up.

Pause here. Enter one of the great things about LPSVG: opportunities for exposure and growth. The first of these arose for me when our sister school from Trinidad, Latin Passion TnT (LPTT), visited St. Vincent for a weekend of Latin dance activities. It was a packed four days of workshops, parties, and social activities, but mostly it presented a standard to aspire to. The LPTT dancers truly mesmerized me with their confidence, poise, and raw ability. They lit the fire in me that shouted ‘You can do this! You can reach that level!’ I had already been going to every class LPSVG offered, but now I was determined to take part in everything else it would throw my way.

And that’s exactly what I did. I attended all of our parties, always leaving the dance floor only to re-hydrate or freshen up. I performed group and individual routines for LPSVG’s first anniversary event and placed second in our first in-house bachata competition. By the time LPTT returned to St. Vincent the following year, I was comfortable and confident enough to open any dance floor and when LPSVG was approached to do a New Year’s Eve kizomba performance last December, I volunteered before even asking my partner! Competing and performing had never been strengths of mine and now I was embracing both!  Through all this growth and experimentation, however, I continued to truly enjoy dancing to Latin music.

Two years later, I look back and can see how far I’ve come thanks to LPSVG. Yes, my desire to push the limits and break new ground forms a great foundation, but LPSVG has created the environment for me to build on it. Preparing for performances and competitions has increased my overall confidence as a dancer, especially in front of an audience. Workshops and weekend events like Salsa Fiesta offer targeted instruction in styles or genres not covered in our weekly classes. Aside from the many opportunities for exposure, though, remains one enduring benefit of LPSVG membership one can never escape: the highly welcoming, supportive, and understanding environment fostered by all members. Genuine efforts are made to develop camaraderie and respect among the members, something that really shows itself on the dance floor.

As LPSVG continues its way towards a vibrant Latin dance scene in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, I remain eager to welcome others into our world. Knowing what this experience has done for me makes it that much easier to encourage them to embrace this opportunity for personal growth and enjoyment of such sweet music. I invite anyone passing through St. Vincent to check us out for an awesome time! See  you on the floor!

Anton Jardaine

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