No one expected it to turn into a wild Salsa dance night!

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By Erika Weisensee

My husband and I have a favorite Mexican restaurant—a place so warm and family friendly and reliably good that we go there all of the time. The owners know us by name and our son is always happy there, munching on their delicious tortilla chips. About a week ago, we stopped at our place (Cha Cha Cha in downtown Milwaukie, Oregon); we ordered take out at the counter and sat down to wait for our food. But, the restaurant was different that night. The chairs and tables were pushed to the sides to make room for a dance floor in the middle. People were dancing. They were dancing the Salsa, and it was a joyful scene.

Next thing I knew a friendly man was asking us if we had ever danced the Salsa. Next thing I knew he was taking my hand and leading me on to the dance floor. Next thing I knew my husband was smiling and encouraging all of this. He looked relieved that he wasn’t being pulled on to the dance floor, but then a woman took him by the hand and we were both getting a little lesson in Salsa dancing basics. It turns out our restaurant has started Salsa Sundays, a social event for people of all ages. I attended a second time last Sunday and had a great time, not to mention a really good workout.

Throughout the world, dancing is a form of cultural expression. Dancing is healthy, fun and joyful—a great way to meet people and great exercise, too. I personally know many friends and family members who benefit from dancing. Clubs, community centers and dance studios offer instruction for people at all skill levels. Gyms even integrate dance into their exercise classes. From country line dancing to swing dancing, there is a dance for everyone.

I have never considered myself a good dancer, but I’m open to learning. After all, as Keith the cheerful Salsa instructor said to us the other night, “The only thing you can do wrong here is not have fun and not enjoy the music.”

### Erika Weisensee, a writer and native Oregonian, lives in Milwaukie and teaches journalism and communication courses at the University of Portland.