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Preserved by Purpose – Salsa for the Soul

“The key to salsa dancing is knowing how to lead and knowing how to follow.  Ladies, even if you don’t know where your partner is going. Don’t watch his feet..just follow his movements…even if you don’t know where he is going.”  When I heard this phrase during Salsa dancing lessons at a restaurant in my hometown of San Antonio a few years ago, I was both scared and excited.    Having only tried salsa dancing in Zumba classes, I was eager to try “real” salsa dancing.

Shewanda Riley

“Five. Six. Seven. Eight.” The voice of the salsa dance instructor boomed across the crowded dance floor as the group of at least 50 Salsa dancing hopefuls (including myself) clumsily practiced our basic salsa dancing steps. By the end of the 1 ½ hour lesson, I’d learned the basics and realized that I had more rhythm than I gave myself credit for.   Next, the instructor announced that the lesson was over and that the live band was getting ready to start.   It was our chance to show what we’d learned.  Nervously, I looked over at my sister Mia who encouraged me that the key was following the man’s lead.   She’d been salsa dancing for over nearly 13 years and had invited me to the lessons while I was on vacation.     Despite her meek and understated demeanor, she was considered one of the best Salsa dancers in the area.

As the live band played a variety of salsa music, I was amazed watching her dance. Whoever she danced with, they looked as though they’d been dancing together for years.    When she came back to the table after one particularly smooth dance, I asked her if she’d danced with the guy before.  She replied that she hadn’t; she just followed his lead.

Then a scary thing happened.   One of her more experienced male dance partners asked me to dance.    I was too afraid to say no and found myself anxiously making my way to the dance floor.   As the band played, we moved backwards and forward…then left…and right….in sync.   It was hard not to look at my feet but I did my best to focus on following him.    The few times I did look down, he’d remind me in a gentle whisper to stop looking at my feet, just relax and follow him.  After we finished, my sister said that we looked smooth.  She added since he knew what he was doing, he also knew how to lead me so we both looked our best.

Not only did I learn how to salsa, I also learned that dancing salsa can be like learning to trust God even if we don’t know (or like) where he is leading us.   Sometimes we don’t follow God because we first want to know (and in some cases control) where is taking us.    Jesus reminded us Matthew 16:24 that to be disciples, we have to deny ourselves (wanting to know everything) and simply follow God.



Shewanda Riley is the author of the Essence best-seller “Love Hangover:  Moving from Pain to Purpose after a Relationship Ends” and “Writing to the Beat of God’s Heart; Prayers for Writers    She can be reached at preservedbypurpose@gmail.com or on twitter @shewanda.



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