Saturday, March 12, 2011


The Havana Club

One of the best decisions I have ever made in my life was to take dance lessons.  I was outwardly against it for a long while due to my shyness and squeamishness.  I always had the feeling that dancing was just not for me, and that it was only for other, more outgoing people to do.  Inwardly, however, I always yearned to be different.

The first kink in my constraints came when I was in Ireland at a ceili (kaylee) dance with my friends from work.  There was some line dancing, which was easy enough to pick up, but there were many couple numbers as well.  My friends had no qualms whatsoever about going up to any girl and asking them to dance, while I contented myself to sitting those numbers out and feeling good about them enjoying themselves.

The next day, as we were heading home, I talked with Simon, the guy in our group that I knew the least, about how much I had enjoyed the ceili, and how I looked forward to going to another.  Then this guy, that hardly knew me—and, I believed, who wouldn’t have given much thought to my sitting on the sidelines so much during the dance—said something to me so simple and true that it has reverberated in my mind ever since.  He said, “Doug, it’s fun to be there and watch other people dance, but it’s so much more fun to be the one out there doing it.”

Seemed pretty self-evident: something that everyone would already know and not need to be told.  And I did know it.  But having it said to me, by this person, in his quiet, perceptive manner—it was like being hit by a soft thunderclap.  A Life’s Truth had just been spoken, and I still consider myself, even twenty years later, to have been lucky enough to hear it at that time, in that way.

And so, back in the present, after having struggled often with my shyness over the last two decades, I have found myself having mostly abandoned my shy ways in general—i.e., insofar as they restricted me from enjoying myself—and in dancing, in particular.  So, when I went out Saturday night to the Havana Club in Central Square, it would have seemed as if I’d come full circle from my Ireland days, and my contenting myself with just enjoying other people enjoying themselves.

It’s HOT in the club, which is not a surprise, and the two fans they have going do little to ameliorate that fact.  After paying and getting rid of my coat, I head off any potential qualms and ask the first available woman if she would like to dance.  (The Havana Club has a very relaxed atmosphere, with mostly single people attending, so asking any woman to dance will not have any adverse consequences.  There are salsa clubs, however, where one does have to sauce out a woman’s situation before asking them—lest you ask the wrong woman, and her significant other makes a point of letting you KNOW you asked the wrong woman.  A potentially un-fun business.) 

I tell her that I’m not very advanced and I hope that she’ll bear with me, and she just laughs and says the same.  We end up being about the same level skill-wise, and we quickly see how much we both enjoy dancing with each other.  We can talk a little too, and I find out that she’s from Turkey, which explains her beautiful, dark hair and eyes.  As we get more comfortable with each other, she starts to get more playful, coquettishly looking up at me from cuddle positions—and I make a note-to-self about just how good it is to be in my shoes at the moment.

We dance several numbers, but then she has to leave (sigh.)  I then start to circle the room with the other men, asking whomever to dance, and taking a break every once in a while to stand in front of the fans.  (I usually take my break when they put on a bachata.   The music is just a little too annoying, and I only dance to it when a woman asks me.)  I dance with about a dozen women, all of different levels, and enjoy every moment.  The atmosphere is very laid back, and the women rarely hesitate to accept a dance as there is little-to-no pressure from the men that it mean anything more than it is. 

After a couple of hours, my legs are a little tired, and so I head home, feeling a little sweaty, spent—and very content.


The Havana Club is located at 288 Green Street in Cambridge.  It is just steps from the Central Square T station and very affordable parking lots.  It is open on Friday and Saturday nights, from 9pm until 2am.  (The Friday Night Salsa party is 21+.)  There is a weekly beginner and intermediate class both nights, from 9pm to 10pm.  Cost is $12, and classes and coat check are included in the price.  No partner is required for dancing or for the classes.  Full bar available.                                                   

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