05 August, 2006

Quickstepping in the darkness of Midelt

Part 4 Colors of Morocco

Morocco ranks up there as one of the most unlikelist places to practice my limited salsa dancing skills, being a conservative society with no ingrained Latin rhythms culture. Not even sure they've heard of salsa, in contrast to my previous Central and South American journeys, where sadly didn't get much opportunity to wow everyone - probably all for the best, since I sucked big time. Anyway, just when I was on the verge of questioning my sanity for taking salsa "On 1" despite its limited practical use in the New York club scene, developments in Morocco give me renewed life. (For non-salsa dancers: "On 1" is classic salsa style, "On 2" is New york club style).

As luck would have it, there was this Dutch girl "Bini" in our Intrepid group whom I overheard telling another woman that she liked to take salsa lessons and go to socials once a week or so. I expressed my pleasure at meeting a fellow salsero, replied that that I had been taking classes on-and-off for about a year but noted (as my usual disclaimer is) that my competency level wasn't all that great. Bini herself had been taking them for a year and a half, and was probably more dedicated to the craft than I was.

One night when we stopped in Midelt (in possibly the worst auberge in the entire of Morocco and where moths laid a nest in our bed), after dinner the hotel wait staff, no doubt eager to please yet another batch of captive tourist audience, proceeded to play some Berber music for our entertainment. Or rather, they tried to - sounded like a cat being strangled was the general consensus. After a few minutes of this torture to which we clapped politely on cue, predictably enough they dragged each of us tourists to the dance floor to heave our bodies to the rhythmless music. Not kidding - each of us was clapping and shifting around to different beats! Total asynchronous disorganized dancing at its finest!!! Finally this rather aimless but still joyous celebration had wound down, and I was ready to call it a night, but then - Bini stops by, grabs me by the shoulder and insists we practice salsa...so I was like, "Uh, now? Where???". My hesitance was due to her being the more experienced dancer, my forgetfulness and general ineptitude in executing complicated turns - just ask Frenchie**), and discomfort in performing in front of a large group of people (yes, 12 people qualifies as such).

The group had gone out on the rooftop terrace for drinks, and we decided this was the place to practice - in pitch black darkness no less, and in front of a dozen instant salsa critics. I had unleashed a monster LOL. Despite my initial misgivings, we managed to go through several steps and turns we both knew while having a lot of fun, and even managed to impress our audience. There was even some suggestion of us conducting a basic salsa class for everyone at some point during the trip (sort of like "talent night") - an idea I agreed to as long as Bini taught it. Hahaha...

A couple of nights later, relaxing in the beautiful setting of Todra Gorge in another poorly ventilated hotel, after yet more drinking in the hotel terrace, Bini requests some salsa music to be played and before I knew what was happening, was getting dragged out to dance...half dizzy, half drunk, managed to muddle my way through a few steps and turns - neglected to mention that at this point I had consumed an entire bottle of Moroccan white wine (which wasn't bad at all) - the only reason I drank all of it was that the rest of the group preferred red wine. Jordi, whose family owns the auberge (memo to Jordi: put fans inside the rooms please), told me that in Spain white wine was known as the ladies' wine...oops. In this hampered state, I told Bini to demo some shines which she did while I just puttered about doing the basic step while trying my best not to fall face down on the concrete...so eventually we finished an entire song to much acclaim. That turned out to be the conclusion of my salsa adventures in Morocco, as plans to visit the salsa club in Marrakesh fell through. Fun while it lasted.

**my sometime partner in salsa class who habitually berates me for holding
her hand too tight, failing to catch her after a turn, almost stepping on her feet,
and other egregious sins - all in that cute French accent of hers

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