If you don’t know who Karel Flores is, then you are probably living in a Salsa Cave and you should definitely get out more. Karel is without a doubt one of the Top Salsera’s in the world today! She is also the principal female dancer in Yamulee dance company which is one of the most recognisable dance troupes on the Salsa scene.
To clarify how good Karel is (if none of the above makes any sense), I once ran an informal survey with over 20 unbelievably talented Salseras from all over the world, including Switzerland, USA, Sweden, UK, Turkey, Mexico, South Africa…. The question was simple, who did they consider to be the best Salseras on the dance floor right now? Karel Flores featured on 90% of all lists and was actually No.1 on close to 50% of all responses.
So when I saw Karel Flores in June last year at the All Star Salsa Cruise, there was no way I was going to pass up the opportunity to dance with possibly the No.1 Salsera in the world. After working up some courage, I walked across the dance floor and I asked her to dance. She put on the sweet Karel smile and apologised, saying she would not be able to dance with me as she was just heading out of the party. She did however, promise that she would dance with me later on that evening. Unfortunately, I never got to see Karel for the rest of the evening and I was so disappointed. Truth be told, I was not too surprised that we never danced – I mean she is a World Class Salsera and I was just a random Salsero.
The lesson she taught me however, only happened at the party on the very next day. At some point in the evening while I was standing around surveying the dance floor, looking for the next person to dance with, I looked over in the direction of where Karel was standing. She caught a glimpse of me and flashed a smile of recognition. I smiled back and then she walked across the dance floor (about 30 metres) and when she reached me, she said, “I owe you a dance, don’t I?”. I was dumb-struck. I mean, here was Karel Flores (a World Class Salsera) remembering that she owed me, Chilly ‘Alisar’ (a random Salsero from Cape Town who she only met for like 5 secs the previous night) a dance!!! In my mind, I was like, ‘WTF!’
After the shock wore off, I responded with “Yes, you do.” She was like, “Lets go.”I then informed her that I only dance On1 and she responded by telling me not to worry about it.
We hit the dance floor and though I was intimidated, it was an amazing dance . At the end, she thanked me for the dance, as I did her, and she went back to her friends while I let the fact sink in in that I had just danced with the Karel Flores.
The Lesson Learnt: No Matter how good or even great a dancer you are, you should always give back to the Salsa community and encourage those who are not yet at your level by dancing with them and making sure they feel included.
I have met and continue to meet a lot of Salseros and Salseras who refuse to dance with people who are not yet at their dance level. Now if Karel Flores could dance with me, who are you to refuse to dance with others?
So next time you are at a party, remember the lesson from Karel. Walk up to all those people you owe a dance and dance with them. We were all beginners once and the only way we got better was by dancing. So do just that – dance with anyone and everyone and make sure everyone feels included.
Till next Thursday….
Que Viva La Salsa y Bachata!