Monday, 27 July 2015

The Salsa Raft (2015)

I started salsa dancing in the spring of the year 2014. Having left it rather late to life to indulge such an activity, I am never going to be truly proficient. However I am slowly getting better and it's certainly one of the most enjoyable forms of exercise I have ever attempted.

Hector was a teacher of the dance style known as salsa. Four times a week he would give a class to beginners and always he would call out the timings of the steps, “One, two, three... five, six, seven...” and he did this to stress the fact that there was a pause on the fourth beat in which the dancers weren’t really expected to do anything.
For so many years did he call out the numbers in this way that he finally forgot four existed at all. And so he went through life unable to cope with anything related to that particular integer. Thus he had to increase the frequency of his lessons to five nights a week. This made him richer and more popular but worsened his problem with fours.
His four-blindness or fourophobia intensified and deepened to the extent that even the words ‘for’ and ‘fore’ were affected. Hector never did anything for any reason now, but only because he felt like it. He refused to acknowledge his forebears and gave up the art of foreplay, much to the dismay of his wife. He no longer had any fortitude.
Aware that he had changed in a way that put him at a disadvantage when compared with other men, Hector decided to do something remarkable in order to regain his feelings of self-worth. Dance instructors were nothing unusual and even those who put on big parties and spectacular events weren’t uncommon. His approach had to be devastatingly original.
It occurred to him that maybe he could find a way to harness the energy expended by salseros and salseras. All those movements were an outpouring of physical force and it was a pity this force couldn’t be captured and used to do positive work rather than be wasted through dispersal. His first thought was to modify the dancefloor in order to generate electricity.
This might be accomplished by connecting the sprung wooden floor to levers and gears below that turned a dynamo. The electricity produced could power the sound system, so the dancing would enable the music that accompanied the dancing, a perfect loop. But after giving the matter a little more thought, Hector realised that this arrangement wasn’t really so unique.
Something more ambitious was required. One night the idea came to him as he lay awake in bed. Because the time 4am was one he was unable to accept as real, the night was always one hour shorter for him than for a normal person. To compensate for these missing sixty minutes, he went to bed an hour early, before he was properly ready for sleep.
Thus he often tossed and turned not only his wakeful body but ideas in his lucid mind. And now he constructed in his imagination a curious vessel, a huge raft that was actually a floating dancefloor, with a rudder and a propeller that could move it along on still waters and without obtrusive sails that would flap in the faces of the crew and passengers, who would all be dancers.
The more he pondered this peculiar marvel of maritime engineering, the more excited Hector became, to the point that he leaped out of bed and ran about the house on a quest for a pen that worked and paper that hadn’t already been written on. When he found what he was seeking, he sketched the design with a few bold and deft strokes. The salsa raft!
A vessel powered by the vibrations of the feet of those who danced on its deck, these vibrations being converted into electricity that powered a motor driving the propeller. And he, Hector, would be the captain and navigator with his hand on the tiller, steering a course to their destination, for a destination was another essential component in his glorious vision.
What more appropriate destination than Havana? That steamy tropical hive of vibrancy that forms the ultimate pilgrimage for all serious salsa dancers was the only viable option. The end result of such an amazing voyage wouldn’t merely be to bolster Hector’s somewhat battered confidence but to also provide a solution to a riddle that had long bothered him.
This riddle concerned the haunt of the best salsa dancers in the world. A fine teacher, Hector had nonetheless on his travels to clubs in other cities often been awestruck and intimidated by the quality of the dancers who thronged the dancefloor. Some of them were truly astounding. The spins they did were more complicated and elegant, the styling more stylish.
Yet these dancers, when he went to praise them after the music ended, always insisted they weren’t as good as the dancers in some other club. So Hector had gone seeking and had found and entered those other clubs, but the dancers who frequented them also insisted the best could be found elsewhere. Always there was a better club with better dancers.
But the process had to end eventually. Somewhere in this wide world of ours there must be the best club of all and in that club must logically cavort the most stupefying dancers that had ever moved or could move to salsa rhythms. And he, Hector, naturally nurtured a dream of locating that club one day. His best guess was that it was probably in Havana.
It might not be there, of course, but it was worth finding out. The raft would take him together with his regular class of learners and once they reached Havana he could begin his explorations and investigations. Even if he was unsuccessful in finding the ultimate salsa club, the remarkable and unusual journey itself would make him famous.
He shared his scheme with his pupils at the earliest opportunity and they were enthusiastic. They even contributed donations to the building of the raft, which he had expected to fund entirely from his own savings. The vessel was constructed in a couple of months and its launching was attended by television reporters and journalists from many newspapers.
The raft set off from England one morning in summer and Hector pointed the rudder towards Cuba. For the first few days everything went well. The dancers danced and their dancing made electricity that kept the music playing and also turned the propeller. It was going to be a long voyage but that was part of its appeal. “One, two, three... five, six, seven...”
Unfortunately, the island of Cuba lies just south of the Tropic of Cancer and to get there the raft had to cross the latitude line 44ÂșN. The two fours in that number were like the double barrels of a shotgun to Hector and his frenzied attempts to avoid them led to him capsizing the raft. It is not easy to capsize a vessel as stable as a raft but he managed it.
Or maybe huge waves were responsible and no effort was made to avoid the storm because he was unable to check the weather forecast. It was an insane mission from the start and the authorities should have prevented it, but how could anyone forbid anything to Hector? All the same, he lacked tremendous foresight and it is time now to forget all about him.