What do you want to be for Halloween

The Connection Between Salsa Dancing & Halloween

Halloween is right around the corner and while I was walking from Davis Square to my house today
I over heard a couple talking about costumes.

The girl was asking:

What do you want to be for Halloween?

The guy didn’t know yet…

I’m sure you’re getting these types of questions already, and it’s a tough call. There are
so many roles to play and characters to choose from.

You could be the traditional sexy bunny, or the classic Batman, you may choose to the more
religious god costume, or the more adventurous cowboy.

Whatever your fancy, there is no end in sight to what or who you can be this Halloween.

Halloween all started as a Celtic pagan tradition. They believed the spirits of the dead
would visit the earth on this day in October. It was a time ghosts would be free to haunt
those still living, and in order to appease these spirits the Celts would give them

No matter the history, it seems more like a holiday to celebrate human curiosity and just
break free from the roles we play in our every day lives.

As this girl was walking by the question kept bouncing around in my mind.

What do you want to be for Halloween?

It slowly morphed into a more abstract idea about dancing and how the excitement and fun
wearing a costume comes from the stories we get to share with each other.

When you have a costume on you know people are going to ask…

who are you?
Or they will compliment you on your costume because it looks cool

You’ll get the pleasure of sharing a story, or making new friends because your costume can
be a conversation starter.

Being a Salsa dancer, I started thinking… hmmm…

When I dance I tell a story.

I take on a role, and I get to change the story every 3 minutes because the music and mood
changes throughout the night.

Salsa dancing is rich in stories, rich in characters.

There are tales of war, slavery, love, hate, vengeance, chivalry, loneliness, and angst.
It’s a dance that merges the roots of the past with the people we have become today.

We take movements from slaves brought to the Americas, religions forced into secrecy, and
the daily lives of our ancestors.

One moment you could be planting grain, and the next churning butter.

Salsa dancing brings it all alive, and when you connect with the stories you’ll get to
enjoy the feeling of Halloween while you’re social dancing.

The feeling that you’re free, and can be whatever you want to be.

The feeling that life is full of pain and it’s ok to wear it on your shoulders for the
world to see.

The feeling that we’re not alone and are deeply connected to the people who have come
before us, and who will come long after we’re dead.

Halloween brings you to a time where you were a child, and would go tricker treating with
friends and family.

Now that we’re older, we may be a little more reserved and may not be as excited about
dressing up as the Power Rangers, but we long for the freedom to just be something…


To be raw, and real.

Yes, Halloween involves some fake acting and choosing to be something you’re not… but when
it comes to Salsa dancing you can play out what you truly are or what you would like to be
in this moment.

Its an adventure out there - Halloween quoteYou can be the confident, direct, simple and smooth leader that women are itching to dance
with… or the feminine diva who blisses out on the intimacy and familiarity of being taken
care of…
It’s an adventure out there and Halloween is just the day we’ve chosen to take off our
masks and enjoy being present.

It’s like the costume gives us permission to move beyond all the insecurities,
hesitations, and constraints to breath again.

I have three roles and costumes I like to play when I’m Salsa dancing.

The stories, characters, and drama come from Cuban Rumba.

The dances are called
Columbia, Guaguanco, and Yambu.

Cuban Rumba: Columbia

Columbia is about the soldier/hunter
It involves fast footwork and is a demonstration of a warrior’s agility, strength,
confidence, virility and humor. Imagine yourself in the role of a hunter who’s about to go
out for his passage into manhood. He needs to kill a lion by himself and bring the skin of
this wild animal to the tribe.

What movements do you imagine would be necessary to pursue a lion and live to tell the

You would need to be fast, agile, strong, and have the grace and balance of a gazelle. You
can’t be slow, you can’t be lazy… you’re life is on the line and the entire tribe is
watching, or at least waiting anxiously in the hopes that you come back with all your body

Before you go off on your adventure they have a feast, and all the men are gathered
together to encourage you and wish you well.

At this feast the men compete.

They compete to show their skill, and to also show their joie de vivre, their love of

In the Cuban Rumba dance called Columbia you are a warrior; and you accept that you may
die tomorrow.

You live your life with a spark of joy and fun and don’t take yourself too seriously
because you understand the cycle of life.

Imagine the playfulness, and freedom that comes from being a hunter/warrior. You’ve
relinquished your chains, and no longer fear death.

How would you dance?

This is what Salsa dancing is about for me, it is about living the stories we want to live
and choosing to tell the people around us about it. It’s about being whatever we want and
allowing the freedom to heal what is going on inside.

There are thousands of stories…

Another one of my favorite dances is Guaguanco; A dance
capturing the story of the rooster and the hen.

When I was in El Salvador, I saw a group of roosters and this one hen. There was an alpha
rooster so he was the only one partaking in the “dance” and the others were just watching.

It was fierce… The rooster would puff up his chest, and flap his wings and essentially try
to impress the hen or at least distract the hen so he could surprise her and get her
pregnant. The two would run around us and cause a huge mess, and at one point the rooster
got so close to impregnating the hen that she pooped all around us.

Yes, not the best image.. but that’s the story and I’m sticking to it.

She got away and kept teasing the roosters, but at that moment I understood what Guaguanco
was about.

Guaguanco is a sexual dance between couples. It’s playful, yet extremely symbolic of what
happens in real life.

The rooster shows his virility and cunningness to get the woman. He shows his strength,
body movement, and desirability through the dance to distract the hen so he can quickly
get her with a vacuna (i.e. injection – symbolizing sexual penetration).

The rooster rarely succeeds, because the hen always manages to cover her groin or to
quickly move away from the vacuna (at least in the partner dance).

It’s a raw dance to watch and it just brings to the surface all the stuff we try to hide.
When we’re laughing and having fun about it, all the creepy and embarrassed feelings about
wanting a woman or wanting to be wanted goes away.

Here’s a video of a couple dancing Guaguanco (Dancing starts at 1 minute 22 seconds):

Now the final dance costume I want to share with you is Yambu

The Cuban Rumba dance called Yambu is about an old man trying to keep up and flirt with a
younger woman. It’s a hilarious, endearing, and playful dance I take out when I’m getting
tired of moving fast and just want to enjoy my partner.

Some might say Yambu is just a slower version of Guaguanco. However, because the man is
older he does not try to vacuna his partner, he just tries his best to keep up with his
much younger partner even though we all know he can’t.

There are two roles in this dance, so I’m going to break it down between the Gramps (older
man), and the Damsel (beautiful younger lady).

If you were Gramps, you would be aching in pain, suffering from arthritis, have weak knees
and a back problem. It’s the typical archetype of an old person who has lived a full life
and just wants to live a little more of it.

As you see this beautiful damsel flirting, being spritely and almost floating with the
music you want to show her you still got it.

You move slow, and add your own flavor to the dance… but, being the old timer you are,
you have to occasionally stop and lean on your partner for support.

You’re not giving up,
but the aches are catching up to you and the damsel is dancing circles around you so you
lean on her in order to slow her down and be close to her.

Now if you’re the damsel, you’re having a ball, you are laughing at gramps and think it’s
cute he’s trying to keep up with you. You exude your feminine powers and give gramps the
energy to keep going. You occasionally help him out so he doesn’t get hurt and it’s all in
good fun.

Here is a video of a couple dancing Yambu
(The dancing starts at 3 minutes and 48 seconds)

These are only three of the characters you can play with on the dance floor when you go Salsa
dancing. Just like in Halloween where you need to ask yourself,

What am I going to be for Halloween?

You need to ask yourself… What do I want to be on the dance floor?

You have thousands of options, but now that you know some of the ones I use most often… go
out and play.

If you have someone you know who likes to have fun and dance, I would share the story of the
rooster and the hen with them. Then play your role/character as best you can…

It is so much fun.

When Angela and I were still teaching Salsa at Mojitos – maybe 4 years ago (before we even
learned Guaguanco) I would chase her around the room and try to get my vacuna.

Sadly, I never made it… but, the chase, and back and forth was really amazing.


Enjoy your Halloween,
Ulrich (The Rooster) Inge