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Lalo's Biography

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My salsa story begins about 5 years ago.  Through a weird set of circumstances I me one of the Bay Area orquesta leaders.  He invited me to see his orquesta perform.  Wow.  Cool.  Why not?  I had never heard live salsa music, much less watched salsa dancers -  I was always up for new experiences and figured I might as well see what a salsa club is all about. 

I got dressed to go to the club.  I put on some black dress shoes, a pair of black slacks, a white shirt and a black vest.  As I walked out the door, I saw my white Cuban straw hat (with a black band).  I bought the hat after seeing some old footage of Desi Arnez.  I never had an opportunity to wear it and I figured this was as good of a chance as any.

I got to the club as the lesson was ending and the dj started playing.  I grabbed a Corona, took a seat in the back of the club, and waited for the band to start.  A very attractive woman walked by me, looked me up and down, and then asked me to dance.  I was very flattered but told her "I don't know how to dance."  She looked at my hat and started laughing.  She said "Very funny, let's dance."  I again explained that I didn't know how to dance.  She rolled her eyes, grabbed my hand, and said "Come on," as she lead me to the dance floor.

Having never taken a lesson before, I did my best to imitate the actions of the other dancers who were turning and twisting away.  I stepped all over this poor lady and tossed her into other dancers.  Less than two minutes into the song she stopped dancing, looked frantically around and said "I see some people I have to go talk with."  I was left standing in the middle of the floor.

I bought another Corona and sat in the back of the room bitterly drinking the beer.  As the next song started another woman walked by, looked me up and down and then asked me to dance.  I again explained that I didn't know how to dance.  "Ha, ha," she said, "Let's dance."  She interrupted my protestations by grabbing my hand and leading me to the floor. 

Less than two minutes I again found myself standing by alone in the middle of the floor.  I was a little upset.  I left the club before the band even started.  Salsa sucks.

Fast forward to January of 1999.  I was in San Diego visiting my aunt and uncle.  We went to a salsa club for one of their birthdays (this time I was a bit wiser and dressed in my skuzziest clothes so nobody would mistake me for a salsero).  My uncle and aunt danced and I was blown away.  Those two simply didn’t dance, as they moved they became an extension of the song.  It was spectacular to see and I was completely mesmerized.  I have always enjoyed listening and collecting music.  I realized that this was a new way to experience the songs.  I also realized that if I didn't learn how to dance, at some point someone was going to come up to me, ask me for my Latino Card, and tear it up.  Membership revoked.

I decided I had to learn how to dance salsa (plus I have to admit that I just ended a relationship and this seemed to be as good of a way to meet women as any other).  I also realized that the key to learning salsa (as with most things) is repetition.  I decided that I would take classes two to three nights a week for three months and see what happened.  For the first two months I hated it.  When I started taking classes, I drove from Oakland to Mountain View on Tuesday nights to take classes.  Don’t get me wrong, my instructors were incredibly patient and professional.  It was just a bit tough to find out just how untalented I was at this new thing. 

Slowly things began to click.  I started to "hear" the music.  I was able to dance and not have to count out loud.  The smiles on the faces of the followers started to look less forced and more genuine.  I started to realize as I watched other dancers, I wasn’t looking at the women, but instead was watching the movements of the leaders (“How did he do that step?” “That pattern is similar to one that I know, but he did a little something extra at the end.”  “How did he do that extra footwork as he brought her across?”  “Was that a triple hook turn?!?”).

I got addicted.  I found myself going out four nights a week and lying about my whereabouts to my non-salsa friends - heck, I started to classify people as being either "salsa friends" or "non-salsa" friends. . . Anyway, you get the point.

As I spent more time dancing, I realize that there is a whole salsa-subculture.  There were classes being taught all over the Bay Area.  I found classes that were closer to home and started taking classes from Ava and Luis in Berkeley – another set of consummate professionals (I continue to take these classes).  I found that there was live music five nights a week (at that time).  I was like a kid in a candy store – and my appetite was insatiable.

Well, over the last two and a half years I have kept up the same pace.  My collection of salsa CDs now outnumbers my mariachi CD collection (and that says a lot).  I have met many dancers, promoters, band members and consider quite a few to be like family.

I started working with SalsaCrazy about a year ago.  The decision to help out Mr. SalsaCrazy with his web site was probably because I know that I could use my work as an excuse to justify my addiction ("Mom, I would really love to go to Grandma's funeral, but I am committed to go to a salsa event for - sorry").  Ok, it's not that bad, but pretty close.

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