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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, January 11, 2002

Rhythm is gonna get you, so succumb to its power

By Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Staff Writer

Tom of Makiki and her partner, Anthony Campbell of Waikiki, heat up the dance floor with their fiery salsa moves.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

It was one of those nights.

Hanging out at the downstairs bar at Dave & Busters one Thursday night after work, we sat, an audience captive to hockey highlights and songs from the '80s you thought you had forgotten.

A weekend joint with a weekday crowd, struggling for a reason for Friday. And we weren't finding it. We needed a change of scenery.

"How 'bout salsa?"

"What? They serve that here?"

"No, I mean salsa dancing.

C'mon, let's go."

A confused look, a wandering smile, then finally the decision.


So four of us headed for Rumours nightclub, where an $8 cover got us entrance to a Latin explosion. Congas, trumpets and girls in sequin tops and high heels, spinning together in a medley of movement.

The only reminders we were in Rumours were the rubber-bar cages and a Pac Man arcade game.

Lounging at the tables near the door and facing the stage, a group of dance kids, sharply dressed with a hint of allure, staked claim on the place. They zeroed in on newcomers.

Take my hand, dance with me, I will show you the steps, you will beg for more.

Inconspicuous in an aloha shirt and khakis, one dancer wrapped himself around one of the people in our group, spinning her, pushing and pulling, in a game of dance-floor flirting he seemed to have mastered. She beamed, she glowed, she danced.

No love connection, not even a name exchange. But that wasn't the point.

We were all here for different reasons — to vent, to move, to watch, to learn — but all with the hope of occupying the next few hours with something fun.

We surveyed the dance floor, sunken and surrounded by cushy seats. By 8 p.m., after the salsa lessons, it showcased about 20 swirling, spiraling bodies, their arms and hair whipping around them. Graying men were coupled with young women with long legs and supple skin under the misleading dim. We sat out the first song, finding a spot close enough to the bar, the dance floor and the exit, ready for anything.

But the music spilling out from the live band fronting the bar was too addictive. We couldn't resist it. We didn't care that we didn't know the difference between merengue and meringue. We didn't care that we weren't wearing comfortable shoes. The music was calling and we had to answer.

The drums, the rhythms, the spirited pace — salsa takes over. You lose control. You don't notice anyone around you. You just want to react, to become the lyrics.

I pulled up my hair and shook out my hips.

A Hispanic pretty boy grabbed my hand, gently leading me to the center of the dance floor.

"No, really, I can't dance," I kept repeating. He just smiled. "I'm serious, I can't do this."

"Don't worry. Come with me."

The next seven minutes blurred by, as he spun me, twisted my body, arched my back. The footwork so quick, the movements so precise, I lost control. I had to succumb to him.

In the fury and flurry, the attraction was obvious. Everything about salsa, from the music to the movements to the entire masquerade, was intoxicating. You can't stop, you can't quit. You have to move.

You have no choice.