Diary notes of a wannabe Cuban dancer

Oh yet another joyful day of dancing in Santiago de Cuba. What a night! Can’t imagine any other city putting musicians and dancers on the top of its pecking order. The streets are filled with a myriad rhythms. Son, salsa, merengue, rumba, bachata, reggaeton. The list is endless. My favourite game here is to try to figure out which genre is being played. With the Santiago Carnival under way, there are music bands playing literally everywhere – inside in restaurants and bars, outside on street squares and parks. It’s hard to decide where to go dancing. Fortunately, with our dance teachers to pick the best venues, it’s easy for me to get a sampling of everything.

The Caribbean colours of the floats and the parades fill the streets. Even as we watch the parades float by from our viewing stands, it doesn’t take long for the Cuba Libres to convert even the viewing stands into a dance floor – vibrating with the steps of a real “salsa”. We dance with such vigour that it’s a wonder that the wooden stands don’t fall apart!

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Elsewhere on the streets, young Cubans dance to DJs playing Latin-American music from the 90s in Cuban versions of open-air night clubs. I too can’t resist swinging to my college-time favourites – Macarena, La Tomatina, Tic Tic Tac etc. Mojitos, Piña Coladas and Cuba Libres are being served on hand carts, right next to toys.  The food stalls flood the air with enticing smells emanating from Pizzas and chicaritas (banana chips). Huge roast suckling pigs vacantly stare out at passersby roasting in the Santiago heat. Neon colours pop everywhere as young Cubans strut around in their best clothes, drinking out of steel and plastic mugs. The atmosphere is electric.

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Love the dancing. No strings attached. At least for me. While the men seek more than dance partners, little do they know how they waste their time with me. My heart is in India. And my body seeks nothing but a dancing doll. Selfish me! The live bands are amazing. The songs force you to your feet. That is, if the other dancers don’t. Fluttering my wooden fan (something that every self-respecting Cuban woman  seemed to carry) to keep myself cool in between dances, I feel like a debutante at a Victorian ball waiting for a suitable suitor to ask me to dance!

The santiagueros seem to be born on the dance floor. Young and old – they have a natural rhythm hard to follow and lovely to watch. I make my attempts to keep pace, fail miserably and say, what the heck, it’s all good as long as I am having fun. And to say I am having fun is an understatement. I love dancing and this dancing holiday in a dancing city with its dancing soul is a dream come true. Pao Pao Pao to that! Yet another sleep begins with a big smile pasted on my face. Can’t wait for tomorrow to begin 🙂

-x-x-x-

Footnote: As I convert this diary entry into a blog entry, my heart leaps back into Santiago de Cuba. The yearning that I feel for the place is unlike anything I have felt before. I can see an encore coming. Hopefully very soon.

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