Dancing Out of My Comfort Zone

A peek into Jardin Tino Rossi, a dancing community along the Seine River.  

There’s no twerking. Nae Nae’s aren’t dropped. No whips. Stanky legs aren’t very stanky. It’s just good, old-fashioned dancing.

Situated along the Seine River in Paris, Jardin Tino Rossi comes alive at night with dancers from all types of genres. Depending on what day of the week you go, the genres range from the fast paced salsa and bachata to the passionate Argentine tango. The best part? You don’t even have to know how to dance.

As a person who stands in the corner of the room avoiding the dance floor, I felt like I was warmly welcomed into a bubble of happiness and no judgments. I could dance like no one was watching, even when everyone was watching.

However, I didn’t start the night off feeling that comfortable.

The Argentine Tango

“You want to dance?” asked a nicely dressed man in worn, leather shoes.

“Sorry, I don’t know how,” I replied.

“You can’t dance? Oh, I am a very good teacher.”

I was standing motionless for several minutes, staring at the swift movements of the dancers on the platform. I wonder if my idleness prompted the man to approach me?

I hesitantly declined the man’s offer to dance. I wanted to get the full experience, but they were dancing the Argentine tango, a very intimate and passionate dance. I was not prepared to share that experience with a stranger.

A Piece of Home

A couple dances together with a Minion, capturing the fun atmosphere of Tino Rossi.
A couple dances together with a Minion, capturing the fun atmosphere of Tino Rossi.

On this particular night, familiar American music emanated from the largest dance floor. I heard the voice of Ed Sheeran and was drawn in. Was that Snoop Dog playing too? Due to this change in tempo, the first few seconds of each song people froze for just a moment. They look closer to hear to music. Hand in hand, the men twirl the women around the platform.

I  am here in Paris to try new things so I reluctantly inch out to the dance floor. It is baby steps, though. I dance with my classmates, toeing the line of my comfort zone. I pulled awkward movements from my shallow repertoire of dance moves. I moved side to side barely staying on the beat. Our group formed a small semi-circle, leaving an opening for anyone to join.

After messing everyone up on a simple line dance, I noticed an old man observing our group. I made eye contact with him and he smiled and walked over to me. The next song was starting to play and he offered his hand out to meThe man is one foot shorter than me with hair the color of stormy clouds. I tried to tell him I was uncoordinated and didn’t know how to dance, but he just shook his head in confusion. We didn’t need to communicate, though. We spoke through the movements of our bodies but I wasn’t fluent in this foreign language. He took my hands and I could feel the history radiate through his hands into mine. It felt like I was dancing with my own grandpa. His experience is evident when he takes control of the the dance, swirling me around and around.

The song ended and he kissed my hand goodbye. I no longer felt the anxiousness I felt when I first arrived at Tino Rossi. The levels of skill were so spread out that there was no room for judgement.

Beyond the immediate onlookers, tourists on the Seine dinner cruises pass by every five minutes armed with their cameras. From their point of view, watching the dancing at Tino Rossi probably feels like not being invited to a fun party. The tourists take their pictures and wave, but the Seine separates them from the raw energy of Tino Rossi. I rather be on solid ground, immersed in this vibrant community of dancing.

The positive energy is intoxicating and I can’t wait to go back to Tino Rossi. Maybe I’ll try the Argentine tango next time?

Audience: Student travel publication

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