Sunday, July 20, 2014

DANCE | Salsa in a Foreign Land


When I moved to Oman in 2013, I was fortunate enough to be introduced to a new form of latin dance- Salsa and Bachata. Unlike other social dances, salsa and bachata are two very popular dances in night clubs, not just in Oman but in most metropolitan cities of the world.

Before Ramadan started in 2013, I visited Trader Vic's in InterContinental Hotel. On the dance floor were people dancing salsa. I honestly thought that it was just a quick cha cha cha. But when I observed that twists and signature salsa techniques, I told myself that I need to learn how to do it one way or another.

Searching for a salsa class in Oman, I chanced upon this salsa group called Latin Dance Muscat and thought of giving it a try. I was reluctant at first because I had no partner. But the moment I stepped into the class, learned the basic mambo and cross body lead, my salsa dancing journey began. My one goal after the first class was to be able to dance on the dance floor confidently and lead effectively.

Please visit the Latin Dance Muscat FB Group- click here.


This ardent desire was even intensified when I received my very own dancing shoes- more than ten months after I joined the salsa class. It is like receiving a graduation diploma from elementary and high school, and now facing the university level of salsa.



Dancing shoes tailor made in Italy
But what exactly do you get from dancing?

Certainly dancing is an excellent workout but more than that, dancing allows you to meet new people and interact with different cultures. This is especially important for expats since living in a foreign country can become daunting and at times stressful. When you dance, you forget your worries and you are transferred to a different plane of existence.


Dancing allowed me to meet wonderful people who share the same passion and think the same way. These same people helped me, as an expat, to feel that I belong to a community and no matter how cliché it may be, it is true that there is might in numbers. Belonging to community enables an expat to feel more stable. The fact that you know that you have a group that you can count on makes you feel comfortable as a foreign worker in Oman. In short, you feel less alienated.


Salsa community comprised of people from different countries in one of Latin Dance Muscat's special gatherings


Also through this common passion for dancing, you are able to connect deeply with people in the group forging more meaningful friendship.


Again I have to say that this is extremely important for expats who live on their own in a foreign land. I can attest to this after staying two years in Saudi Arabia and one year in Oman.



The Kingdom Tower of Saudi Arabia with my Filipino friends. 
We rarely go out to unwind as there are very limited places 
to visit in Riyadh.
The difference is striking between Saudi and Oman. To an extent, the ultra conservative culture of Saudi does not foster healthy atmosphere for expats. Further, mixing of Eastern and Western expats is not common. Communities tend to stick to their own kind. It is very rare that you will find Eastern and Western expats genuinely enjoying the company of each other. Saudi nationals do not also normally mingle with expats.

The divide between developed and developing countries is reeking in the entire Kingdom. And it looks like there is no hope of improving this status quo. This is sad because instead of bridging cultural gaps, an iron wall is built separating one person to another. 


Fortunately, Oman is a different story altogether. In this country, Eastern and Western expats tend to mix much more easily.  I find the exchange of cultures welcoming and people are more open for new ideas. Thus allowing social dancing among many others.







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