Salsa is danced to music with a recurring eightbeat pattern, ie two bars of four beats. Salsa patterns typically use three steps during each four beats, one beat being skipped. However, this skipped beat is often marked by a tap, a kick, a flick, etc. Typically the music involves complicated percussion rhythms and is fast with around 180 beats per minute."
I lay these Wikipedia-derived facts about the Spanish dance before you like so many informative tapas for one simple reason. Namely, that I am unable to retain any coherent personal memory whatsoever of the local salsa class my boyfriend and I attended in a brief and futile attempt to find a form of exercise we could both take part in.
What we had unfortunately neglected to take into account is that each of us had had our sense of rhythm removed at birth. We stood, more woodenly than extras in The OC, staring at other couples tapping, kicking and flicking to the complicated percussion rhythms with grace and elan, while we fought the urge to cry.
The whole evening passed in a blur. I have no more than a vague recollection of the instructor shouting "tap left on the first beat", giving rise to the rapidly and furiously muttered exchange:
"What does she mean, the first beat?"
"When we first hear the music?"
"How many beats will there be?"
"Depends what a beat is. Is it like a note?"
"Kill me. Kill me now."
We tried. God knows we tried. Reasoning that listening to the music was confusing us, we fixed the nearest talented couple with a gimlet eye and imitated them. It worked well for the first couple of steps of any sequence but as soon as any twists or turns occurred and we lost sight of our human crib sheets, all was lost. We could not begin to fathom what was going on. It is a decidedly odd experience to find one's 30-year-old self bereft of all the skills and abilities the surrounding adults take for granted. Spiritually instructive, no doubt, but I can't say I care for it. In fact, I would rather be stabbed in the legs with a fork than attempt to move them in accordance with island rhythms ever again.
· Next week Tim Dowling tries weightlifting.