The Lockdown Interviews! – Part 1

Sarah Leigh Salsa Teacher

Sarah Leigh

Welcome to The Lockdown Interviews where we grill and probe some of Salsa Buenas’ most popular Teachers/Guest Teachers, who are also some of the UK’s TOP teachers, about the lockdown.

How has it affected them? How have they been coping? What have they been up to?  What do they think the future holds? All this and more! Their answers will inspire, surprise, shock and intrigue.

First up we have Sarah Leigh. Sarah teaches Salsa & Bachata alongside Nigel May at our Thursday night classes in Cardiff Town Centre. A hugely popular night, Sarah brings her talent, warmth and passion and is very much loved by all her students. Its no surprise she is probably the one person most Teachers love to have at their side. You’ll see her all over the UK alongside the very BEST teachers by request!

Note: If you are really struggling with lockdown and/or are seriously affected by any of the issues in this post, please seek professional guidance. Check out the infographic to the left/or at the bottom of this post of just some of the many professional and charitable organisations that can and will help. You are not alone. heart

SB: What were your first reactions/thoughts/fears when the 1st lockdown was announced?
Sarah: Strangely, the first lockdown felt like a bit of a novelty. It was something new, a ‘first’, not a game, but an interesting challenge. Almost a kind of opportunity of sorts. I felt a certain reassurance that the Government were taking charge to keep us safe, and as a single mum, I was concerned about the safety of my children. At that point the thought of catching COVID19 was unthinkable, it was a very scary unknown.

SB: How were the first few weeks for you emotionally and mentally?
Sarah: The first few weeks were almost a welcome break. They were an unexpected opportunity to spend some quality time with my two teenagers, something that happens less and less as they get older. And I miss that time. So the first few weeks were quite special. The three of us worked out, cooked new recipes together, played board games, watched films, went on walks, tackled jobs together around the house and in the garden. We had just put our house up for sale only 10 days before Lockdown was announced, so working on fixing up for selling was quite exciting. It was a very ‘together’ bonding time that, were it not for the lockdown, we would otherwise not have had.

I started walking each day, long, 5/6 mile walks with a friend, very early in the morning and this was my bit of quality adult company each day. Time and space to talk, be real, process things, cry, laugh, all of it, I’ve never had the time to walk EVERY day. The beautiful weather made it exceptional.

I wasn’t working at that point,  although I was being paid. So financially I wasn’t too concerned. I didn’t for a moment think the situation would go on long enough for me to need to worry.

So, the first few weeks were not too difficult, some parts were even enjoyable.

And it seemed like a Wartime type community effort for the greater good of all of us. There was some feeling of comfort and connection in that. We were ALL in this together, the whole country.

SB: As lockdown set in how did you cope and what have you been doing?
As the weeks went by, I found I needed to actively attend to certain needs, in order to keep mentally and physically well and strong.  And as a mum, I saw that I needed to do these things for my children too.  Kids learn from what we DO, not what we say, and I soon realised that once the ‘novelty’ began to wear off, my kids needed some guidance here.

My aim was this for each day:
Something physical, some positive mental exercise, something social, something fun and something productive.  I won’t list everything here, it would go on forever and I’d bore you all, but here are a couple of things that got me through.

  • I had started writing a daily blog (My Corona Chronicles) at the
    beginning of lockdown, so I began to really make more of this and
    be very real, open and honest – daily. It required me to look for
    and find the positives in EVERY day, and articulate those.  This
    was an amazing mental exercise which not only made me focus on the positive and what I had to be grateful for, but it also brought me huge amounts of connection to the people reading and responding each day.
  • Physically I ploughed myself into CUBAtone – the dance exercise programme I teach, alongside my good friend (and  founder/creator) Alain Hernandez. We started online classes, I took part in several larger events and taught CUBAtone classes online for those too. I joined in online festivals, animation afternoons etc, where  I delivered routines, the list goes on.  Basically, I stepped out of my comfort zone and said YES – I joined in, gave back, got involved and took part in all sorts of events. I love CUBAtone, I love keeping fit and dancing and I did as much of it as I could, wherever I could, with as many people as I could.  It’s been my lifeline!

SB: Have you still been able to teach?
Yes, I have still been teaching CUBAtone, but not salsa (Or rather not assisting in salsa classes – Nigel is the teacher). Fitness classes seem to have had a much bigger take-up than dance classes – on-line at least. Right from day one of the first lockdown our online CUBAtone classes have been busy. We’ve had people from all over the world sign up and join in. One class there were people from 17 different countries!

There is no better way to stay well than to keep fit. To be able to share what I love doing is another huge positive. And helping others to keep fit and well has inspired and uplifted me on MANY a darker day.

SB: What do you recommend people can do to keep up their dancing skills and class fix?
Sarah: Try new things. Whatever they are – but keep trying new things. Sign up for a class with a teacher you’ve never had before, or a dance you’ve never danced. Give a new fitness workout a go. There are SO many out there and it’s easy to think, “Oh,  that’s not for me”. And you may be right, but it doesn’t matter, it’s the trying that makes a difference. Many classes are a ‘pay what you can’ contribution, so even if you are struggling financially there are still lots on offer. But whatever you do, keep trying new things.

SB: Have you taken on any new Hobbies, Pastimes, Skills or Courses?
Sarah: I have been learning to cook. I was married to a chef for 20 years and I never needed to learn. He loved cooking and I didn’t. I did other things. Since separating a few years ago the kids have had a less varied (and less tasty) diet shall we say! But since last March I have been learning, with the kids, to cook all sorts of new dishes. I have taken some online cookery Zoom classes lately too – where we all cook together at the same time. I have TOTALLY surprised myself by how much I am enjoying this.

SB: Do you have any advice for people struggling during this time?
Sarah: Advice? I wouldn’t claim to know what’s right for anyone else,  but I can share what I am discovering works for me:

a) Keep learning. It can be anything at all – but keep learning new things. It can be a dance, cooking, a study course, to knit, paint, make music, sing, a new sport or hobby, reading to improve your knowledge or understanding on something. But keep learning.
There is something motivating in this, something that keeps me feeling like I am moving forward, even though most of my time it can feel like Groundhog Day. There is a sense of growth and purpose that I find I need in my life, something aside from just ‘waiting’ for restrictions to be lifted and life to return. It keeps me feeling like I am moving forward.

b) Stay in contact with people. In whatever way you can. It’s too easy to become isolated when we are all alone and separate. Make those calls, join Zoom chats, instigate a House Party call, join a class, join the chat room on a radio station of music you like, use the video facilty on Whatsapp once every day etc. But whatever you do, TALK to someone EVERY day. Even when you don’t feel like it, ESPECIALLY when you don’t feel like it. It makes a HUGE difference to my day when I’ve had a natter. I feel more connected but (and this is important for me)  ONLY if I remember to be ‘real’. “I’m fine” , when I’m not really fine – doesn’t work!

SB: What has lockdown taught you?
a) That I’m ok on my own. I CAN manage. I AM strong enough. I WILL get through this. I DO know how to take care of myself and my kids. I HAVE got what it takes.

I don’t feel like this ALL the time – I wobble, get lonely, sad, down, feel vulnerable and uncertain, unsure and worried, but if I keep doing the things I know I need to do, especially when I don’t feel like it, and I reach out regularly, I am learning that almost without exception, I MAKE it to the other side – intact – of whatever felt insurmountable. What I tell myself I can or can’t manage, generally speaking, determines what I achieve.

b) These aren’t my words, they are the words of Paolo Coelho, but I am learning this through lockdown:
‘The secret is here in the present. If you pay attention to the present, you can improve upon it. And, if you improve upon the present, what comes later will also be better.’
I CAN try and do this – even through ANOTHER lockdown.

SB: Do you envisage any change in the future of Dance Classes and Events once this is over?
Only for the better. I think people will value each one – teachers and students and promoters alike. I think less will be taken for granted, we will appreciate each other, and each event and each dance. There’ll be less space or desire for judgement and division. The true value of what dance brings to each of us is clear now that we have had it taken away. We won’t want to waste a moment not appreciating it once it’s back.

SB: What do you think the first day back at a regular class/dance event will be like?
Sarah: An injection of something one ought not to take! 🙂

Thank you Sarah for taking part and your open, honest and inspiring answers. ❤️  We look forward to seeing you in Cardiff again as soon as its all over! You can find more details of  Sarah’s CUBAtone Classes with Alain here:

Make sure you add yourself to our Facebook Page  (link at bottom of this  page) or check back on the Events section of this website regularly to read  further Parts of The Lockdown Interviews with our other awesome Salsa Buena Teachers & Guest Teachers –  Part 2 with another teacher coming imminently!

the lockdown interviews
help infographic