With Strictly Come dancing back on TV, I was reminded of a wonderful Caribbean experience in Puerto Rico's old San Juan
LEARNING TO SALSA IN OLD SAN JUAN‘If you can walk you can dance,’ said Raffi the salsa instructor although he looked sceptical as our group shuffled in. Raffi teaches salsa to’ anyone and everyone’ from judges and accountants to students, tourists, locals and visitors alike, and he claims it can change lives. The power of the dance can, he says, turn the friendless into party animals and the lonely into Red hot lovers. An eco-lawyer by day, he has taught hundreds of people to salsa, and our group was his latest challenge.
Our first salsa session took place upstairs at old San Juan’s Noyorican café which is tucked in an alleyway of San Francisco Street. Many a famous face has shaken a leg here , including the Rolling Stones who apparently inisted on coming here to experience the laid back atmosphere, the great music and, of course, the dancing.
After this mesmerising demonstration, Raffi started to put us through our paces. The dance is done with three weight changes (or steps) in each four-beat measure. The beat on which one does not step might contain a tap or kick,.. One of the steps is called a "break," which involves a change in direction. When we reach this point,Raffi shouted ‘prepare’ as a cue for us to be ready for the turn. Desperately trying to mimic his smooth moves and effortless twirls, we lurched gracelessly around the room. But Raffi allows us some false moves and, taking each of us in turn, passes on a little of his stylish kno-how. By the end of our lesson, we can execute a passable salsa.
It hadn’t changed our life, but we left with slightly more rhythm than we arrived with and headed downstairs to see how it really should be done. In the Nuyorican, dozens of gyrating bodies were hitting the floor at the famous café, The live music is infectious and the salsa party continues well into the small hours.
We were experiencing a taster session, but to learn to salsa in style Raffi’s classes come in a series of 10 sessions which typically last 1 hour 45 minutes.
312 San Francisco