"Forward, two three four, and BACK, two three four..." It's incredible how flushed with confidence you feel salsa dancing with strangers when you've got a blindfold on. Maybe it's because you can't see the stranger. Maybe it's because you can't witness your own muddled dancing. Maybe it's because you can't see the stranger witness your muddled dancing. But as we career around a central London wine bar, switching from partner to partner, we can't help feeling darkness is definitely the way to go.
Really though, these blindfolds are serving as an eye-opener — we're taking part in Love is Blind — a pilot event organised by The Royal London Society for Blind People (RLSB) and Match.com. The idea is to make Londoners more aware of the challenges blind young people face, and get them more comfortable when it comes to dating. So what's the verdict?
Fresh off the dance floor, we meet Tom, a visually impaired 23-year-old trainee barrister. "I thought that it would be an interesting opportunity to meet sighted people interested in dating," he says, "Maybe not to find a relationship but to experience how they reacted to being blindfolded."
Though he hasn't necessarily met the one tonight, Tom says more events like this should happen. In the past, he hasn't always found dating to be a positive experience: "The conversations you tend to have are a bit generic," Tom says, "Sometimes I'm not sure what the other person is thinking, or what their intentions are. Sometimes I don't know whether that other person is fully engaged with me."
Setting up a date in the first place has its pitfalls too, explains Joy, 20, who is also visually impaired. “The idea of dating worries me," Joy says, "The first hurdle is deciding where to meet a date and then actually finding my date or expecting them to guide me to where we're going.
"Then there’s all the usual anxieties about being on a date, that are heightened if you’re blind, for example, knocking a glass over, or being messy."
That anxiety works both ways. According to a new poll from RLSB, more than half of young Londoners admit to being nervous if they were to go on a date with a blind person, and one in 10 admit they wouldn’t go on a date with a blind person at all. A trial night like this on a Monday night is bound to be light on attendance, but a handful of sighted attendees have shown up. How have they found it?
Igor — a programmer in his 20s — says he didn't necessarily come to the salsa lessons for the dating opportunities, but for an interesting experience, something totally different. Could he date a visually-impaired person then?
"That's a difficult question to be completely honest. I want to say that it really doesn't matter. And you could rephrase that question and ask someone 'could you date someone who was really bad at dancing?'
"I think that's just the general truth about dating. You date somewhat in spite of their shortcomings, or whatever you want to call it. But I've never been in that situation. I don't know if I'd find it difficult or not."
Certainly, Igor agrees that blindfolded salsa has helped him understand dating from a different perspective, and is something he'd do again. In fact, he's already signed up for another of RLSB's London Without Limit events. He is, after all, a programmer, and as he says, 'his people' need all the social interaction they can get.
London Without Limits runs until 30 July. Check out all events online.
Londonist is proud media partner to London Without Limits.