How troubling that salsa should be held in a cellar. It’s like that Mel Gibson film “Ransom”; you are lead into a cellar, but with jaunty Latin music playing instead of pounding industrial.
The classes before the club night are intended to educate any newbies about the steps, holds and turns neccessary to partake in salsa. Being a belligerent youth, I decided not to bother. Classes are for losers.
I attended the night with Hayley, who is my colleague. I say “my colleague”, she’s my boss.
This was pointed out in the most brutish way by Hayley herself while we were having a conversation with the guy who runs the joint. “This is Tom,” she said, “I’m his boss.” I attempted to joke about this, but she was deadly serious. “I had it written into his contract,” she said, “that he would accompany me to salsa.” I cursed the fact that I had not read the small print.
Salsa is a strange dance. All of the songs are the same tempo (160bpm), they’re all in a minor key, and this relentlessness makes for a rather grim night. However, the dance is flighty and entertaining, and occasionally the people who know what they are doing make hilarious errors. One guy leant seductively against a wall, attempting to lure his dance partner into some dirty dancing. She buggered off, leaving him looking not a little twattish.
And that Crouch End experience is carried down into the Salsa Cellar… The people are a mix of young Afro-Caribbean guys looking impressive and skillful, and a load of white middle-aged women looking at the young guys. There are also old white guys with faded t-shirts and grown-out hippy hair; greasy ponytails and glumly-accepted sensible adult haircuts. Where the haircuts are sensible, they are matched with a lurid turquoise short-sleeved shirt.
For the newcomer, salsa is quite a bit like ice skating. You know how the first time you attempt to ice skate, there are always people doing fantastically complicated things in the middle of the rink whilst you’re clinging gingerly to the side? And perhaps when you’re a little better at it, there’s only one move you can do – leaving your left leg static on the ice and pushing yourself along with your right foot. That’s what salsa feels like to me. Even when you get the hang of it, you need to put in a hell of a lot of practice before you can skate backwards.
As a viewing experience, however, the Salsa Cellar is entertainment indeed. Plus, there might even be a chance that the middle-aged women of Crouch End might take a shine to you, and let you inherit their estate. So to speak.