Since this story comes up a lot whenever I get into a conversation about dance, I’m just going to write it here so I can copy/paste it in the future.
Way back in 2010 when our biggest problem was the recession caused by the housing market crash, I had gone on a trip to Colombia for the first, and so far only, family reunion. I went with my sister and her boyfriend at the time, as my spanish is horrible despite being of Colombian and Cuban blood. We ended up staying at this large walled resort, whose name I cannot remember. We stayed in these little cabins, and we would take daily trips via bus to different locations in Colombia. One evening we decided to go to this I remember being called “Andres Restraunt”. Although when I google the place, it gives me “Andres Carne de Res” from an eater.com article, which describes the place as “a Cheesecake Factory crossed with a night club on steroids…”. This is accurate. I did not have this information going in.
A few months prior to this trip, I had just started taking a few months worth of Salsa dance classes (LA style). I had reasoned to myself that learning an actual social skill like dancing would help me better cope with social gathering situations where my combination introversion and social anxiety issues made it difficult for me to just strike up conversation with strangers. Especially with all dance parties that always seem to spawn around me on account of having lived in Miami back then. It did help a bit back then now that I think on it, but these days the opportunities are much less (especially since COVID). The point here is I wanted to learn how to dance and would use every opportunity I could to practice. When the world returns to normal, I intend to get back into it.
Now this restaurant was unlike anything I’ve ever seen, and to this day I still haven’t experienced anything that can compare. I remember entering with my entire extended family through a roped off area, as if it were some sort of carnival ride we were stepping into. In a way, it was I suppose. I recall it was a hybrid indoor/outdoor setup. In the middle there was the kitchen/bar infrastructure. The whole area was shaped as a massive rectangle. Spreading out from the center was rows of long wooden tables arranged in parallel. The dining and dancing areas were covered with a combination of canopy coverings or other misc roofing material. Because this was still in the mountainous area of Colombia, it was always cool in the evening so there wasn’t a need for AC. Cover from the rain was all that mattered. At random times, there would be musical processions or other events walking through the entirety of the place. There was even a wedding going on, though to my understanding it wasn’t an actual wedding but instead was just a performance of one. There were also trees in this place. This will become relevant later.
When we sat down at our tables, we were presented with these massive menus that were inside of a metal box. They had a hand crank. You would turn the crank, and the menu would rotate through. I’m not sure I ever found the end of it.
The other important thing, besides the amazing food, were the drinks. This would be my first introduction to Aguardiente. I translated it as Fire Water (though if you want to be technical, wiki describes it was “water” and “burning/fiery”). Either way, that is what it felt like to drink it. It was done in shot format. I had never drank like that with my family before. I can’t remember now what were the prompts for each shot, but they were…frequent. I recall my cousins would randomly hand me a shot, and down it would go. At one point my sister started getting angry at my cousins and told them to stop giving me drinks. She could be an absolute bear against me some days, but she was always defensive for me if anyone other than her gave me a hard time…such was the nature of our sibling relationship. As she was scolding one cousin, another would hand me a drink while she was busy and I’d just drink it anyway. I mean we took a bus to get here so driving wasn’t going to be an issue.
12 shots later, I noticed some Salsa music was playing. When you learn how to do these more specific dances, the instruments used in the music you dance to become key. There is a specific sound pattern I listen for and work with. And so it was in that moment. While there were a series of solo techniques I knew, the real fun was when I was dancing with a partner. Even as drunk as I was though, I still too shy to just come up to random people and ask to dance. So I came up with a novel solution to this problem.
I danced with a tree. It was the right height. It had a limb sticking out just where I needed it. So I danced with it, working on my various spins. This went on for about 5 minutes maybe? Maybe 10? I was drunk I can’t remember these fine details! As luck would have it, a group of people took notice of what I was doing. They came up to me and asked why I was dancing with a tree. I don’t remember the answer I gave. They invited me to dance with them instead. It was either a couple + 1 other lady, or a brother/sister/sister combination of people. I can’t remember those details either. I do remember dancing with everyone. I also remember the name (still) of one of them I danced with, Carolina. After we had our fill of dancing, the group of people invited me to their table to eat and hang with them for a while.
6 shots later (for a total of 18 for you math geniuses out there), it was time to start leaving. Getting back to our cabins was another story in itself. Despite all that drinking, I had no hang over in the morning. My sister credits it to my Colombian heritage.