We mambo’d the night away at group dance class last night. A mambo is like a salsa, but in mambo you step off on the second beat; in salsa you step off on the first. Seems like a really tiny, insignificant difference, one that wouldn’t be too hard to take into account, and there’s no doubt in my mind that most people do it easily, all the time. To me, though, it’s like trying to brush my teeth with my left hand.

No, wait: Waltzing in a right-hand box after doing a change step is like brushing left-handed (as contradictory as that may sound, it makes perfect sense if you think about it for a second. Okay, that’s good, now stop.) Switching from a salsa to a mambo is like trying to sing a round of “Row, row, row your boat” after someone else has already begun singing it. So simple, and yet you can’t help muffing it the first few times by laughing or stepping on the other person’s toes.

Christopher asked us to switch from salsa to mambo, and I quote, just to mess with us, because that’s the kind of guy he is. He’s the instructor so he gets to do that whenever he wants to. You’d think that, because we’re paying him, it’d be the other way around and we’d get to call the shots, but for whatever reason it doesn’t work out that way. Life is so cruel. Dance class is even more cruel.

There’s lots and lots of twirling in salsa. My Darling B used to like twirling but she’s starting to get a little vocal about all the spinning she has to do now that we’re dancing the salsa. To be more accurate about it, she’d like to know why the girl does all the spinning in salsa while the guy just stands there, twirling her around. She’s getting a little dizzy, is the gist of her argument.

I think it goes back to something Christopher said about dancing: It’s all about making the ladies look good. The guy does an occasional underarm turn but, most of the time, he tries not to steal the show, and instead he just flicks his arm or raises it up and spins the girl around so she can twirl, probably to make her dress poof out and show off her legs, I guess. Works for me.

We learned the underarm turn ages ago, and it’s so simple that we moved on straightaway to the figure eight, an underarm turn but with a twist, literally: we don’t let go of each other’s hands, so our arms end up tied together like a pretzel. Then we prance back and forth a bit before untying our arms.

And last week we learned the “sweetheart,” a left underarm turn where we don’t let go of each other’s hands. In that one, we end up dancing side by side, arm in arm. It’s cuddling while dancing. I suppose that’s why it’s called a “sweetheart.”

Then last night we learned how to wind the ladies up in a figure eight, prance around a bit, then unwind her and go straight into a sweetheart – and then send her spinning away before winding her right back up again like Duncan a yo-yo. Sweet! It’s a whole lot more twirling, but of course the lady’s the one getting motion sickness. The guy just hangs out, waiting for her to come spinning back to him. Mambo rules.

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