Thursday, 19 November 2009

It’s not the dance that counts, stupid, it’s the dancer

In all the fuss a few years ago about sequencing the human genome there was, to my astonishment, no discussion of what has to be one of the most remarkable genes of all. Even today, no matter how I scan the net for information, I find nothing on the subject.

I’m speaking, of course, of the Salsa gene. This expresses itself in an innate ability, in men or women, to move one’s body in sinuous and graceful ways to the sound of Latin American music, displaying a highly developed sense of rhythm and a talent for gliding smoothly round a dance floor.

Needless to say, this is not a gene that was transmitted to me.

My sons have it, which means they clearly inherited it from my wife, who has dragooned me into attending Salsa classes. I find the experience fascinating. Last night I was being tutored by a pleasant but increasingly bemused woman. At one point she suggested to me that, as well as following all her other instructions (keep counting, move your feet, keep your upper body straight, etc.), I should listen to the music.

‘Listen to the music? As well?’ I exclaimed. ‘How can I do that on top of all those other things?’

I mean, I get the theory. Yes, I can see that in principle listening to the music probably increases your chances of actually being on the beat in your counting. It’s the practice that floors me. After all, I was already trying to do so many things at the same time: thinking intensely, moving my feet, keeping my hands in the right position and counting. That’s a lot more than Gerald Ford, who famously couldn’t walk and chew gum at the same time. And he got to be president of the United States, for Pete’s sake.

I’m constantly reminded of Einstein. I’ve been told that at one point he drove Yehudi Menuhin, who was trying to teach him the violin, to exasperation. So the outstanding musician shouted at the greatest theoretical physicist of all time, ‘One-two, one-two. It’s not that difficult. Can’t you count?’

It’s great to have at least that much in common with the father of relativity theory. Obviously, it would be more impressive if I could also master relativity, but unfortunately I find it nearly as hard as Salsa.

The real problem is in the counting. The Salsa crowd cheats. They count ‘1, 2, 3, pregnant pause, 5, 6, 7, another pregnant pause.’ Well, that’s obviously going to throw me, isn’t it? What’s the problem with admitting there’s actually a number between 3 and 5? And another one after 7? It’s not really that abstruse, surely? That’s how numbers work after all.

It’s just a conspiracy, I’ve decided, against those of us who don’t have the Salsa gene in their DNA sequence. And it’s getting to me. I keep wondering what would happen if I actually said ‘4’ or ‘8’. I haven’t had the temerity to try it yet. I keep thinking ‘If they’re so loath to use those digits, is it because with their genes they know that terrible results would ensue? Would the roof fall in? Would the wrath of unspeakable South American gods be wreaked on me?’

I suspect, though, that it would just be another terrible Salsa faux pas. And since I make plenty of false steps already, perhaps I’d better avoid that one.

1 comment:

Awoogamuffin said...

In Spanish they syncopate the "cinco" in 5 6 7 making it sound really cool, and making things even more complicated for the novice.

By the way, that's twice now I've seen you write "specially" when I think it should be "especially". Doesn't "specially" mean "for a specific purpose" such as "he gets his suits specially made"?

At least, that's what I tell my students...