My name is Willow. I am a salsa instructor at The Salsa Foundation. I discovered salsa essentially through a random person on the street. It was my first day in uni. I just finished feeling happy and I came across a fundraiser in the middle of Burke street, we were just talking about random stuff and she brought me into her crew. From there I started meeting people and one person I met went to an old school that I used to go to. I asked her what kind of hobbies was she into and she said she was into dancing and I'm like, "I've always wanted to learn how to dance." "Ah, what kind of dance would you learn if you were to dance?" "Salsa. Sexy." So she's like, "Oh, I know this great salsa school just down the road over there and you learned salsa free." I'm like, "That sounds fun. Hook me up, when does it start?".
And, yeah, three weeks later I came 30 minutes late to my first beginner's class. Right when they're doing the he turn, she turns and, yeah, did it seven times and never looked back since.
My mother was a ballroom dancer. So she tell me stories, I'll see all their photos. She's to display her trophies but they're not there anymore. So I guess within a salsa dancing context, I'd probably say, "Yeah, more observational than anything." and dance was something that I thought I'd never look good in or good doing. And I remember in high school, my last semester in high school, I said to myself, I want to try something that I didn't think I could do. And I took a hip hop class.
Marginally successful in hip hop, not so much. But the point is I took a leap of faith in something that I didn't think I could do and I did it. I guess that would probably be my closest relationship with dance before I came across salsa, that and my mother.
When I first moved to Melbourne, it was quite lonely. A new place, I knew no one, just moved into my apartment. It's really lonely. It gets lonely. So part of the reason why I was so happy when the first day of uni was because I actually got to meet somebody, people only a handful, probably five and then doing salsa just opened I guess my world to so many different people, so many different connections and stories. You feel uplifted and I guess it's fortunate that I've found so many friends and family through salsa.
How has dancing impacted my life? It's impacted my life quite a fair bit. There's so many other good things that I've gotten through dance that I never would have if I hadn't taken it. You know, I've learned a style that I only dreamed of doing. I attempted to do it in high school just from YouTube videos and absolutely failed. Absolutely failed. It took me so long to learn something and I come to this school and after a class I can dance to a song. You know? Like that's fantastic. I can dance to a song, actually dance. I'm like, not the hitch or like my usual grocery shopping cart or the lawn mower. You know, busting up those old classics. Just this one. You know?
I can actually dance something and feel good and perceivably look good dancing it. It makes you feel good. If anything aside from love, one of the biggest things that I've ever taken away from dancing is confidence. I haven't had a lot to begin with, but I mean it's a confidence in a different way. It's a confidence in what your ability to learn something. Ability to do something that you've learned and just to be able to have fun with it, is the best feeling.
I'd say probably the biggest blessing that I've ever had is my wife. I met her dancing five years ago. Yeah, just a random salsa party that The Salsa Foundation was throwing-
Yeah, no, it was called Gasolina at the time. It was the first Gasolina. Well, one of the, one of the first Gasolinas there, because beforehand it was just called a graduation party at the very beginning when I first started.
And then they had this venue out in South Wharf. It was the bar was called Gasolina. Henceforth the name Gasolina. Yeah, just started dancing two years in and in walks this lady, a bright yellow top, big bushy hair, red lipsticks, danced with her and absolutely loved dancing with her. And yeah, pretty much after that the ball started rolling and five years later we were married and that's a massive impact. So, married, house, wedding. Yeah. That's awesome.
Most memorable dance. Most memorable dance. I'm inclined to be a cheese ball and say that one of the first dances I had with my wife at the moment, not my wife at the moment, is one of my first dances with my wife. She'd just come in, we were dancing, she was making so much noise, like happy noises because this was her first month of dancing and I was two years. So I was throwing all these moves, like she didn't know what was going on. And her response to uncertainty is just sounds "Woo, ahhh," laughter, scream. And that was fun for me because I'm a very auditory kind of person. So when I hear sounds like that, it lets me know I'm doing a pretty good job, or at least they're having fun.
We then proceeded to end the song and in the middle of song and I said, "Look, I have this dip, I want to try this dip. It's a dip trick. Trust me. All right?" and at the end of the song she said, "Yes, I'll trust you." So, and this again, bear in mind, this is her first month of dancing. So the end of the song came in, I was going for the dip, I dipped her over my, I was quite a low squat. I dipped her over my leg, her legs came over my shoulder with my free hand I grabbed her legs over my shoulder and brought her up. It was kind of like a pseudo swing move and it was pretty instantaneous.
After the song ended and after we successfully and safely did the dip, she screamed, "I love you." Three times. So I literally swept her off of her feet. Literally. It's not metaphoric. I swear I swept her off her feet as she proclaims her love for me three times. If that isn't memorable, I don't know what is.
It's hard to think about what my life would have been like if I hadn't ran into that random person in the street. You know? I wouldn't be married. I wouldn't have a house. You know, I'd probably be inclined to say I wouldn't have the career that I have now. Now I'm in recruitment at the moment and I'm only in recruitment because a friend, a good friend that I met from salsa, suggested I should, I should do it. And not that there's anything wrong, but I might still be at Starbucks, working at Starbucks doing a barista job. Nothing wrong with that. It's a beautiful job, but what you talking about a professional career, typical name of a professional career, coffee isn't necessarily it unless you go corporate, but there's just so many variables that you have to consider. But I think, yeah, those are the main ones. My life would be very different.
In the 11th grade, in the 11th grade, they had a dance show in high school and one of the routines, the dance show's routines that they had was a salsa routine. And I remember looking at that and thinking that that was really cool that this guy did this really cool move where he dipped this girl, dipped the follow and then he traced the body but like not without touching. And I just remember thinking, "Damn, that's so sexy." And then they immediately did a sequence and I'm like, "I can't do that.".
I was talking to my friend outside after the dance show and she said, "You know, you should try it." And immediately my wall came up. "No, I wouldn't look good doing it. I can't look good as that. That looks too good. I can't compare to that." If there was anything that I would tell myself, my high school self at that point, I go back to that point and I'd say, "Don't compare." So much of your life is spent comparing yourself to everybody else around you. Social media.
Even when you go to class, even when you're dancing in a social dance scene, right? You sit down and you compare yourself. Jesus, these guys are really good. I thought, "Don't. Stop. Stop comparing yourself altogether and just think, do I want to do it? Yes or no?" If you want to do it, it's only two answers, yes or no. If you want to do it, then fucking do it. You know? Because if you don't, you're going to spend the rest of your life regretting. What if? And yeah, if I could tell myself to do salsa dancing at that point in time, I would.