One thing that is very different from Latin America and Africa, and the US is the prominence of dancing as a main part of culture. In Kenya, everywhere we went we were welcomed with a song and a dance and in Chile, going out drinking and dancing seems to be the most popular pastime.
A few nights ago we went to a restaurant called Chachafaz where they have free tango lessons every night. We didn’t eat dinner just got a few appetizers like chicken empenadas and some tomato bread which was kind of like a Chilean version of bruschetta. From 8-9 there were beginner lessons, in which we learned the basic 8 steps of tango… piece of cake. Lizette helped me a lot because she kind of knew how to tango already so it helped to have her to dance with. Then from 9-10 we learned a little bit more advanced moves but nothing to crazy… I was surprised how easy and simple it all seemed. Me and Kate had it mastered so we asked to learn another step that we saw the teacher teaching an older couple. She said no because we had learned too much for one class…. I took it as a compliment. From 10 on, lessons were over and the floor was free. I danced tango, learned a little salsa and mixed a little freestyle in there too. There was a live band that wasn’t bad. I met two women, probably in their 40s who loved us all and told us we need to learn quaqua (spelling?), the traditional dance of Chile. So, I gave them my email and they are going to send me info bout where to go to learn.
On Wednesday night, Valentina took us to Maestra Vida, the best salsa club in the city according to her. It was a really cool place, small and dark with a pretty nice bar and tables and chairs tucked messily up against the walls. There was a stage where Valentina’s ex-boyfriend’s band played. They were awesome, something like a Chilean version of Sublime. I think I’m going to get their cd before I come home. When I first got there, I just wanted to watch. The way Chileans dance is unbelievable. The guys move their bodies like they are girls and everybody’s arms seem as though they are double-jointed. At one point later in the night, Allison and I were sitting watching this guy dance like Shakira and we both had our mouths wide open wondering how he was doing what he was. Salsa is cool to watch because it is really artistic, but that means it is harder for me too do. Its all about the guy leading so you just have to practice to get better. I have the basic steps down but my creativity is kind of lacking. Even after watching the Chilean guys do it, I still can’t seem to get some of their moves right. It was fun to learn though and the band was really great. I’m definitely looking forward to going back and trying to learn more.
It is interesting that dancing is so big in Latin America and Africa, but so culturally unimportant in the US. Maybe it is because we don’t have a single big native population that would keep “American” tradition alive. Even still, you might think that with the mix of people from all over the world that live in America, we might get a mix of the different traditional dances and adapt them to be part of “American” culture. Doesn’t seem to be the case in my mind but if you disagree please comment. After being in Kenya and Chile I’ve noticed that both countries have a culture that truly identifies them while America seems to be identified more by ideology than cultural practices.