"Chair!!!"
"Me!!!"
"Chair!!!"
On each shout from Ariel, I would spin trying to keep the salsa beat. As he walked further and further around, I occasionally cheated by spinning the shorter distance. "Mierda" (You shit!!) Ariel muttered smiling at my attempts to find ways around his teaching.

Then he took a different tack, telling me to spin on the "primera parte" (first step) of each move. Suddenly I could no longer  do it. My body freezing in confusion or twisting aimlessly, the rhythmic taps of my feet  disappearing into disconnected thuds. I only had to do the same thing I seemed to have no problem with before, yet I couldn’t. Juliette whirled effortlessly and rhythmically behind me.

"It’s your fault," I said exasperatedly. "It’s because you changed the words from chair to first step" Ariel’s smiling short-cropped features crumpled into laughter.

Afterwords he explained that when he said the word ‘chair’, I was focused
on something visual and responding to his shouts, but when he asked me
to do it on a different beat it required a different part of my brain to act. He told a story of a German student he had had who
had similar blockages until finally Ariel found a way through by taking
a different tack like the one he had first done with me today. He then
pushed that to the limits, until it caused a breakthrough that didn’t
fall apart when he returned to the original method.

It was a testimony both to his patience in teaching even uncoordinated
gringos like me, as well as his appreciation that we have different
ways of learning. It was also a revelation to me. I have always assumed
I am hopeless at certain things: for example music (after desperate
years torturing my piano teacher and never getting beyond grade one)
and art and painting (my efforts are surpassed by my neighbour’s kid of
eight). I thought it might include salsa after deciding I was a crap
after three classes taught by a Brazilian who impatiently barked instructions in a club in downtown
Brixton several years ago. But perhaps I was just taught
inappropriately.

So I am off to my class this evening with just a little bit more confidence that maybe this uncoordinated British boy has some innate rhythm after all.