Dancing My Way Around the World

‘You’re going on a WHAT to WHERE?’

These were the words my Nigerian mother exclaimed when I told her I had just booked a two-week salsa adventure in Colombia back in 2009. She was not impressed but I had the time of my life dancing Cali style salsa every day to the salsa beats of Latin America. I came back glowing, trimmer and on an absolute high. 

Black girl in a green vest top ad black leggings with right arm on her hips and left arm around the shoulders of her male dance teacher. He holds her right leg whilst she stands on her left foot in a dancing school
Learning from world class teaches in Cali, Colombia.

I’ve yet to go on another dance adventure since Colombia but Lockdown 3.0 (which we are currently under in the UK) has seen my body trying out Cha Cha, Salsa, Samba, Charleston, Bachata, Lindy hop and the Jive with the amazing Strictly Come Dancing pro Giovanni Pernice with his Lockdown Dance classes and I am able to bounce away in the comfort of my own home in what has seen my outdoor adventures vanish with all the governmental restrictions.  It has been an invigorating lifeline for me, a cheerful tonic in the dark winter and prevented my Lockdown weight gain to balloon out of control.

I can’t remember when my love of dance began, if it was bopping my head in the car to the music played by my Dad on long journeys or me trying to imitate the street dance routines of the 90s R’n’B from the MTV music videos where there was no live pause, rewind or YouTube to teach me step by step.  All I know it has been a long love affair and is unlikely to end soon. One of my favourite things I like to do on my travels is to try to have a lesson of a dance, native or popular to that country or alternatively go see a dance performance. Sometimes I am really lucky and stumble on a dance due to my wandering feet or a local festival is taking place at the same time of visiting.

Recently I discovered this amazing travel show called Travel Barefeet with Mikela Mallozzi which combines two passions of mine – dance and travel and where the host is experiencing the world, one dance at a time – talk about a dream job!! So I was inspired to share some of the few dancing adventures I have had on my travels with you.

An Intimate Flamenco Show in Barcelona, Spain

I first watched this intimate show solo in December 2007; whilst my friends all went to watch a football match at Camp Nou (I hate football) I took myself off to relish in this dance form. It was at this moment I realised if you want to do something and no one else does then go do it solo, better than resenting doing something you have zero interest in! I certainly did not regret it and on each visit I like to go back and watch a flamenco at Tarantinos located in Plaça Reial. When people ask me about what to do in Barcelona, this is always at the top of my list. The art form of the flamenco requires such control in the body, arms and wrists, and such concentration; it’s truly mesmorising. I am sadly yet to have tried a dance class in it but it is certainly on my bucket list.

Flamenco in Barcelona

Salsa, Salsa, Salsa in Colombia

Salsa is my favourite dance to have fun with! It all started when my mate at work invited me along to a class and I just loved it! I was by no means perfect to start off with (I’m still not) but its taught me a lot of life lessons. Attending the World Salsa Festival in Cali, Colombia just had me in awe of what people could do with their bodies – all the tricks, flicks and throws often had me with my mouth open. It was AMAZING and I would absolutely recommend attending.  Since then I have gone to lots of salsa events in the UK and just love to watch and partake in it, even if I am a little rusty now. Salsa has given me a lot of beautiful memories that I still smile to myself when remembering those dance moments.

Look at that melanin glow – posing in front of the stage of the World Cali Salsa festival

Traditional dancers in Jos, Nigeria

For my brother’s traditional Nigerian introduction, dancers came to welcome our family as we came to introduce ourselves to the family of my brother’s now wife.  This type of dancing is like no other, the rhythmical moves in tune to the beats of the African drum. However, I am ashamed to admit that I sadly do not know the name of this dance.  For all my love of dance I did not take the time to find the name and upon doing my research I struggled. This is quite telling to me that perhaps I need to delve deeper into the history of dance in Africa.  What I do know is, this wonderful dance display was brought to us by people from the Ham (Jaba) tribe of Kaduna state, Nigeria. 

An Afro-Peruvian Dance Class in Lima

At the end of my food tour in Lima, Peru our last stop was in a cultural centre in the Barranco neighbourhood and an Afro-Peruvian dance group were practicing. I sat watching for a while, enjoying the ever so present African beats being beaten out on the Afro-Peruvian drum, the cajón. They noticed me and invited me to join and so that’s how I went from observer to participant, learning the routine in Spanish! I must say it was not a bad attempt!

Festival in Huaraz

I arrived in Huaraz to train myself with a couple of hikes before attempting Rainbow Mountain and Machu Picchu in Cusco.  I loved my time in this city and almost didn’t want to leave as I relaxed in my hostel between hikes and made friends with the staff. Whilst out there it turned out to be celebrations of the Festival – El Señor de la Soledad (The Christ of Solitude) so there were a lot of parades and dances to watch on the streets of the city.

I have so many dance memories from my travels, so it was difficult to narrow it down to just five. You’ve probably noticed that I have not spoken of any from the continent of Asia. Having only visited Thailand, it is my least explored continent, so I do look forward to discovering dances from this region when worldwide travels resume again.

If you want to hear me gush some more about dances that I would love to try out, catch me over on the Blackpacking Podcast with the lovely host, Jarika. Let me know in the comments about your dance experiences/adventures abroad or suggest dances you think I should try out – I’m always on the hunt for a new dance to learn

Until next time

Always joyfully dancing,

The Five to Nine Traveller

This post is dedicated to my grandma who sadly passed away two weeks ago. One of my most beautiful memories of her and I together, is when I was teaching her salsa steps in the dining room of her house in Akure, Nigeria & we were laughing and joking over the movements. Rest well Grandma, I will miss you x


6 thoughts on “Dancing My Way Around the World

  1. I grew up dancing all through childhood and college. I miss it so much. Dancing and traveling are two of my favorite things so I am so inspired after reading your post to try a dancing trip like you did with salsa in Colombia! I will have to check out the travel show you mentioned too.

    Like

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