Escape your comfort zone: I only dance when drunk or alone. Can I face my fears and shimmy sober? | Dance

We’re all programmed to dance, says Janette Manrara. “Infants can’t stroll, they will’t speak, however put a track on and they begin to wobble.” One of many first issues she did, rising up in a Cuban household in Miami, was to face on her dad’s toes when he danced salsa.

You’ll most likely know Manrara from her function as an expert dancer on Strictly Come Dancing, and from presenting its companion present, It Takes Two. She’s the actual deal, and she’s going to show me easy methods to dance.

Someplace inside me, I know what she means about being programmed. Music is vital to me, and when it’s the proper of music I really feel the urge to maneuver to it. However I haven’t progressed a lot previous the wobble stage. I’ve by no means actually felt fully comfy – even relaxed – on the dancefloor. The percentages aren’t precisely stacked in my favour: I’m a gangly, introverted, English, now 56-year-old bloke – possibly it’s OK to throw within the towel on this one and settle for my place as a wilting wallflower.

However the challenge is much less in regards to the form or age of my physique, extra about what’s happening inside my head. It’s about self-consciousness and self-confidence, an excessive amount of and too little, respectively. I get pleasure from dancing, however I fear about how I look when I do it, and what different individuals are pondering. That’s why I typically only do it when I am drunk. Or on my personal. Usually each, really.

And proper now, I’m neither. It’s noon, we’re in a brilliant dance studio in Fulham, west London, and it’s scaring the hell out of me. There are mirrors all alongside one wall – that’s not going to assist the self-consciousness. It’s additionally a relentless reminder of how un-alone I am. It’s not even simply me and Manrara – Lucy from BBC publicity is right here, and so is David the Guardian photographer, with all his stuff. “Overlook he’s right here,” says Manrara. “Dancing just isn’t about exhibiting off, it’s about feeling a sure manner, and as quickly as you realise that you simply’re not doing it for anyone else apart from you, you’ll look good dancing, and get pleasure from it.”

We begin with a little bit heat up: shaking, loosening, head-lolling, after which Manrara says I appear to have good self-awareness and I get a celebratory double fist-bump. Now she’s going to show me the fundamentals of salsa. “As a result of salsa is the least technical, you don’t must assume a lot, so long as you may observe the timing.” Aiming not too excessive, then.

The steps I’m studying are much less just like the competition-standard Latin dance strikes you see on Strictly, extra like one thing you would possibly see at a household celebration in Cuba. I’m pleased with that; take me to the household celebration in Cuba. “It’s not a efficiency,” she says.

First with out music, she reveals me: step ahead, again, shut toes, step again, ahead, shut toes. Now lifting the toes a bit, whoops, no, that manner. Subsequent proper and left, legs bent a bit, much less stiff, much less like a salsa-robot.

‘Dancing is not about showing off’ ... Sam Wollaston with Janette Manrara.
‘Dancing just isn’t about exhibiting off’ … Sam Wollaston with Janette Manrara. {Photograph}: David Levene/The Guardian

What about my arms? I by no means know what to do with my arms. “Think about you’re enjoying the drums, arms in entrance, elbows out, and your arms are going the alternative method to your toes. And transfer the hips.” She wiggles her hips, like a slalom skier. I waggle mine, like a drunk tripping over. The hips don’t lie. However I assume they will wait; child steps and all that.

Manrara then places on some salsa music, loud, although not fairly loud sufficient to drown out my inhibitions. Now she’s in entrance of me: “Don’t look down, or you’ll step on my toes,” she says. The place to look then? I’m not prepared for eye contact; I accept over her shoulder.

OK, positive, it’s not so unhealthy. But it surely’s fairly a particular routine that Manrara has taught me, and I’ve been in a position to observe. However I additionally wish to be assured, you realize, simply dancing, at a membership (unlikely, nowadays, to be trustworthy), at a marriage, presumably, dad dancing to I Will Survive, Staying Alive or Thriller.

“There is no such thing as a proper or flawed, it’s about letting go. When a track comes on that you simply love, neglect who’s round, it’s about you; simply be Sam. What’s your favorite track?” God, my favorite track, so many … “Your favorite fashion of music, then?” Er, I like numerous reggae? She places on Bob Marley’s Might You Be Cherished and tells me to shut my eyes and loosen up.

That – eyes closed – is an effective one. I’m not in a brilliant studio with a well-known dancer off the telly and a photographer from a nationwide newspaper, I’m in a seaside bar … Don’t allow them to change ya, O! And even rearrange ya! Oh no! And I’m starting to wobble, in a great way – effectively, my manner, I don’t care if it’s good or not, bear in mind? I nonetheless don’t know what to do with my arms …

“Put them up!” says Manrara. What, within the air? I don’t assume I try this … effectively, possibly as soon as, in Ibiza in 1987, however I’m probably not a “arms within the air” form of man. So I simply wave them round a bit – however then I hear David clicking away together with his digicam, and I bear in mind the place I am and why I’m right here, and it form of ruins the second.

Nonetheless, I get a double excessive 5, and guess what: Manrara says I’ve bought pure inside rhythm! Ha! Clearly she tells everybody that, however I’m taking it.

Anyway, again to the salsa, and she needs to attempt yet another factor. Bear in mind the step: ahead, again, shut toes, again, ahead, shut toes, then aspect, aspect. However now she takes maintain of my arms … And that’s making me self-conscious another time. I ought to have talked about the hand operation I had a few weeks in the past, the contemporary scar It would really feel a bit bizarre and tough – is that why she’s recoiling in horror? She’s not recoiling in horror, although – she’s spinning round! Loosen your grip, she says. I see, to make us much less twisty, much less like a moist towel being wrung out.

She spins once more, this time extra efficiently. I’m not going to lie, I’m feeling a tiny bit happy with myself, not that I had a lot to do with it. It results in extra congratulations and double excessive fives. “Personal your size!” Manrara tells me. What does that imply? “That’s not being cocky or conceited or pondering you’re the very best when you stroll right into a room; it’s about loving and embracing all of you. Personal it!”

Obtained it: personal my size. And I have to vow to exit and dance extra usually. “As a result of it truly is drugs for the soul, and will assist with confidence in all elements of your life.” Nice, I assume that’s me cured then. As from in the present day, nobody places Sam within the nook.

Janette Manrara hosts the Strictly Come Dancing Reside UK Enviornment Tour, 20 January-13 February.

Tickets can be found at

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