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Words: Lawrence Hunt
The brain of the single male is an incredible thing.
Fascinating that a mid-week salsa class can set it lurching between excited notions of sizzling three-stepping one moment, and sheer blind terror the next as the event approaches.
Thus became my Wednesday afternoon after signing up for a Rum and Salsa evening at the Jam Tree, a tasteful gastro-pub in Chelsea. Luckily, by placing only the slightest emphasis on the salsa part and rather more on the rum, I managed to convince my friend to join me.
Being two eager young chaps, we arrived early and were deferred to the beer garden by the bar staff. It’s advertised on the website as being ‘one of the best beer gardens in London’ – the sort of casual bravado that you come to expect around Chelsea, and which instantly makes you look for something to criticise. In reality it’s pleasant, a very wooden affair but a little on the shady side.
After a pint and a half we realised the bartenders weren’t coming back to tell us the class had started, and headed up sheepishly to announce ourselves. A petite, very smiley instructor reshuffled a couple of partnerships for us. The male to female ratio was thankfully in our favour.
Yes, this wasn’t my first time salsa dancing. I did a few classes last summer at the big salsa club by Leicester Square, but not enough to remember anything useful. The class sizes are much bigger there, and are run in a big speed dating conveyor belt – get through 12-beats with one partner, then if it goes horribly badly or you say something weird or they’re a psycho, whoosh! They’re gone, at least until you’re fully round the circle again, by which time you’re probably both ready to have a good laugh about it.
At the Jam Tree class by contrast, you’re with the same partner for the whole hour – in my case quite a talented one named Sandrine – so you’d better pay full attention and be charming, or you’re set up for some excruciatingly clumsy intimacy. This alertness does mean you pick moves up faster, which is good because the instructor here fits a lot of them in.
We learn enough to get us through about a minute and a half of a Wyclef Jean song, one of which involved a triple spin, and some deft manoeuvring to prevent my partner pirouetting down a flight of stairs at one point.
By the end of the hour we’re exhausted, and ready to round things off with a fluorescent rum cocktail. The food menu looked enticing but too hard to justify on a Wednesday night.
If you’re local to Chelsea, there’s no excuse – salsa’s a massive thrill once you get the hang of a few moves, and it’s something everyone should overcome their nerves for at least once. The fact you get to keep your partner will be a real draw for couples or male/female friend duos who want to learn together. There were two such couples in my class, and they fully enjoyed the opportunity for a Dirty Dancing-style leap at the end of the dance.
Sadly, that was one I missed out on as my partner hurriedly walked away. Was it something I said?
541 King’s Rd
Tel: 020 3397 3739