Charles Joseph Smith





"Okay, salseros and salseras, can anyone try to explain how to do the cross-body lead? I wish for a man to speak up first."

Rosita was having a good day of work teaching her members of the intermediate-level salsa class. She was doing her Week 3 lessons to 12 couples and 3 males without partners.

She said to herself, "Three more weeks of teaching salsa and I can rest," as she pointed to a man who was 57, 167 pounds, wearing black hair and brown eyes.

"You Eduardito. I saw you raise your hand. Can you tell me how to do the cross-body lead for the man's part?"

"Si," he said in a nervous groan. But he had only a little effort as he walked through the footwork for the cross-body lead, as the other students watched. The teacher was trying to pay attention to his words, trying to put her left hand under her chin.

"To start, dance one-two of the forward salsa basic--left foot forward, right foot steps in place The other students tried to do the first two steps Eduardito did."

"Now the third step is a little tricky. You are going to put your left foot back, swiveling it a quarter turn to the left..." Rosita was grinning as she continued to watch his how-to demonstration. "I can't believe Eduardito is saying this!" She tried to shout only by whispering.

"...while at the same time, my right foot will also swivel to the left a quarter turn. As you can see, the swiveling occurs at the moment I lift my left foot between the second and the third steps. Moreover, do you see how I place the foot at the end of the swivel?"

The students nodded silently; some others said "Ah hum" as they continued to do what Eduardito explained. Eduardito--a Boricuan who had taught salsa to his Puerto Rican friends when he was exposed to salsa music as a little boy--was having more enthusiastic eye contact then ever before; and Rosita's grin tried to turn into a real smile.

Eduardito went on. "They are about a little over a foot apart and are laterally parallel. Why? Because it creates a slot in which the lady will pass you; that is, the man, from right to left."

Rosita became even more happy and she leered at Eduardito. "Now, Eduardito, what is the easiest part of the last three steps in the man's part of the cross-body lead? You are doing a good job explaining at this point."

Eduardito was quite joyful as he spread his arms from outside to inside. "It would be like a...a slightly modified version of the backward salsa basic...but you close your feet by putting the right foot next to the left foot on the sixth step."

"Right on, Eduardito!"

He looked at the teacher and raised his arm, smiling. Now, Rosita, you see why I like salsa. The other students were curious as they stood in the room that resembled a former ballet studio, with a wooden floor and two barre rails on either side of the walls and a long rectangular mirror on still another.

The teacher, who was 27, married, 57, 127 pounds, with blonde hair and blue eyes, slowed down her pace of speaking. "And can you please finish explaining?"

Eduardto went on, though he had only partial eye contact with the class to look at his feet on the floor.

"Now for steps four, five, and six. On number 4, you put your right foot behind your left foot, and on number 5, a little tricky here, you...move your left foot to the left, and at the same time, make a quick one-quarter turn to the left. Now, with your right foot free, move it straight to close it with the left foot. The students followed along fairly well. And eso es! That's it!"

The teacher and the student were impressed. Wow! I guess you know as much salsa as I do! Rosita said. Is that true?

Eduardito made a flattering gesture at her. "I had danced salsa for 12 years, then I stopped salsa dancing in a big depression after I broke up with my old salsa partner. Then, I got a new salsa partner....Wait a minute..."

He looked at his watch and realized he had to go to a friend's salsa dance party which would begin in about 20 minutes. "I have to run off to a party. I'll see you in the next class."

As Eduardito put on his coat and said good-bye to the class members and Rosita, Rosita had regrets for letting him leave. Maybe he might become our next salsa teacher. I might talk to him about not having to join the class and just going to it whenever he likes--probably as my co-teacher.

The salsa class ended with the students dancing to the song "La Bamba." Before she turned on the cassette player, she said to them: "If you can practice your salsa and know to yourself the moves like the cross-body lead Eduardito told you, then you might become a great salsa dancer."

The students remained silent for a while as Rosita led them in her salsa amalagmation. Rosita tried to put off the amazing explanation of Eduardito as she taught, but it eventually stuck in her mind. 

---Charles Smith


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