Dancing is good for my soul. Especially salsa dancing or any other form of Latin dancing.
I’m not quite sure why I have an inner Latina – my parents assured me I’m 100 percent British – but I definitely have one. Maybe it’s because we holidayed a lot in Spain when I was small or because my Mum had pondered calling me Juanita (‘Juanita Baldwin’ – not quite sure that works). Or perhaps because as soon as I started to learn Spanish, it seemed to roll off my tongue. Of course, it’s probably got more to do with the year I spent living in Spain at 21 and the five years I spent living in Mexico in my late 20s. They were significant years of my life, formative years even – more formative, it seems, than my teenage years. But my inner Latina feels part of me and it feels like she’s been around from the start.
So when I ended up dancing salsa and speaking Spanish on Friday night and into the early hours of Saturday, my inner Latina came alive and my years of Latin living came flooding back to me. It’s been a while since I’ve been salsa dancing and Friday night made me wonder why. Why do we or why do I (you may be better at this than me) not set time aside to do the things I truly love?
I often have good intentions to go salsa dancing but my sensible head tells me it’s not a good idea – I don’t have any good friends who go, the men can be a little leery and it’s a late night activity that will leave me feeling tired the next day. Oh yes, and my dodgy ankle will play up and will have a knock-on effect on my lower back. Despite all those potential reasons for not going dancing, however, I’m almost always pleased when I make the effort and I’m often the last to leave. So I was quite happy to get home at 3 am on Saturday morning. I felt very youthful rolling home in the early hours at my age (that’s 40 in case you’d forgotten), although not quite so youthful when I hobbled out of bed late on Saturday morning. But it was worth it.
As I was writing this post, I was wondering if this topic was in anyway linked to my previous post on perfectionism, When is it ever good enough?, and I’ve been thinking maybe it is. There are many reasons why I love salsa but one of them is because I feel so free when I’m dancing. I’m not perfect at it and never will be. I don’t know all the steps and I sometimes twirl the wrong way or step on my partner’s toes. But I really don’t care that I don’t get it right. There’s something so liberating about just having a go, especially when everyone else is just having a go too. And there’s something about that music that makes me want to dance. I proved this on Saturday – I’d downloaded some salsa music onto my iPhone after all the fun I’d had on Friday night and I couldn’t stop myself from dancing, in my own little salsa world, on the tube platform (to a few stares from fellow passengers).
The whole experience reminded me that, for whatever reason, I seem to have some sangue latina (Latin blood) and it’s a side of me I don’t want to ignore. It also triggered a large wave of nostalgia for those years in Mexico: for the friendships, the parties, my battered old VW Golf that I bought with cash and sold for cash, the weekends at the beach and the love of some very special people.
I’ve written often on this blog about the negative elements of my former years: the overdoing it with food, drink, men, work, exercise etc. But in the interest of balance, I deserve to celebrate the good times: waterskiing on the lagoon near Acapulco, eating fresh chilli prawns, dancing till dawn, playing in the crashing waves of the Pacific, snorkelling in the Caribbean. I can see the colours as I write.
And continuing on the topic of balance, I realised soon after I posted it that my last blog on perfectionism was probably a little black and white. I remember writing that I’d never really enjoyed the trappings of my “successful” career. That’s not entirely true. It’s probably more accurate to say I never truly appreciated what my career enabled me to do. I never truly appreciated what I had, because I was always focusing on what I didn’t have. And I often still do.
So I deserve to remember that I live in one of the trappings of my career – a beautiful flat in a nice area of London – and I’m writing this blog on another – a MacBook – and I get around town on another – my pistachio green Vespa. And there are plenty of expensive dresses in my wardrobe and I’ve been fortunate to travel to many amazing places. I think it’s just about stopping to appreciate what’s around me and being grateful for what I do have or have done so far.
Before I sign off and on a separate topic, a special thank you to Sue at Beautiful Magazine for featuring a post I wrote on body image for her magazine’s blog. In Inside Out, not Outside In, I talk about my Lent experiment to give up negative body thoughts and offer some other musings on self-esteem.