I recall the exact moment like it was yesterday. It was my second salsa lesson, and I was practicing the basic step with a couple other nervous beginners. I remember how the way I was moving in rhythm with the music felt so good, so natural. I thought, “I love this. This is what I need to do.”

It all started because my good friend Lisa had been urging me to go to a salsa lesson with her. I’m pretty shy, so it took awhile for me to get the guts to go. These were Monday night salsa lessons with local dance instructor Linda Drake at SLO Brew.

After the lesson at SLO Brew, advanced salsa dancers would show up for free dancing. I remember watching those experienced dancers and being amazed at how quick and smooth they were. I wanted to be good like that, and be good NOW!

I started practicing salsa non-stop. The floor in my apartment was all scuffed up from basics and pivot turns (fortunately I got my security deposit back.) I mean, you know you’re hooked when you’re at work and you sneak off to go practice your basic in the bathroom.

I was obsessed with salsa dancing, but it took a couple months for me to go to CPsalsa. I kept hearing about it, but thought, “I’m not a student; I won’t fit in. I didn’t even go to Poly.”  When I finally made it there I immediately wished I had gone sooner. I found a mix of all kinds of people who just loved dancing. The instructors were patient and encouraging, and the advanced dancers who were intimidating at first, took time to dance with a beginner like me.

Of those fabulous dancers, I especially remember Rogelio. He would dance every song and with every girl in the room and have a huge smile on his face the whole time. Rogelio was always having fun, and I couldn’t wait until he asked me to dance. At one point during every dance he would pause, give you a mischievous look, and with a twinkle in his eye, shimmy his shoulders at you. To this day, every shoulder shimmy makes me think of Rogelio. Getting to dance with people like him kept me coming back every week to CPsalsa.

It wasn’t long before the people at CPsalsa quickly became not just dance partners but friends. With these friends I started doing crazy things I never thought I would do, like weekly trips driving to Santa Barbara just to dance salsa for a few hours and then driving home the same night, getting back at 3:30 in the morning. These crazy times with dance friends are some of my most fun memories.

It’s been ten years since I started, and I still feel like salsa is what I need to do. There’s nothing that feels quite like having a great dance to a great salsa song. I can’t imagine life without salsa and the community of dancers. After a decade, I’m still hooked!

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