Once you overcome the mental reservations that might be keeping you from dance, there are (shockingly) a few practical challenges that somehow materialize. It’s like this newfound resolution takes work or something.
Well, one month ago, I resolved to learn some serious dance. And one month ago, these three hurdles startled and nearly toppled me before I could ever actually begin.
1. First, I had to find a space.
There is no shortage of dance studios in Los Angeles, so I sampled a few — to my peril. In one studio, ‘beginning’ hip-hop really meant ‘hip-hop for professional dancers who have not done hip-hop specifically but probably know every other kind of movement.’ That ‘foolhardy gusto’ I so boldly claimed in my last piece felt oddly similar to red-faced mortification. Let’s just say I most nearly resembled a baby giraffe wobbling through a herd of pop-locking, hip-hopping gazelles.
Another studio, in stark contrast, felt like home from the minute I arrived. Studio A in Silverlake was both warm and inviting, thanks to the friendly example set by owner and teacher Bill Brown. Bill and the rest of the staff seem quite adept at reading the skill level of each new class, which is enormously helpful for newbies like me. It was challenging, of course, but in the best way possible, and I never felt left behind. The whole atmosphere was relaxed and fun; even the other students were encouraging me throughout the lesson!
It turned out, then, that my search was worth it — I finally found my dance home in Studio A! That’s when I discovered the second hurdle.
2. How would I find the time?
It’s all well and good to grandly declare in a fancy online post that I’m going to take three classes every week, but actually finding the time for that is a different, more difficult, story. Full disclosure: I wasn’t entirely consistent this month. Gasp! I know, I know — you trusted me. But my schedule was all kinds of everywhere. I mean, I usually work out in my living room. I’m not used to having to actually go somewhere and be on time. I did average about two classes per week, which I realize is better than nothing, but I need to amp it up. I’m trying to learn to dance, after all, and that is going to take discipline — because, most obviously …
3. Learning to dance is hard!
Welcome the world of muscles you didn’t know you had. Remember hip flexors? How nice they were to stretch every once in a while, but that’s pretty much the most you ever noticed them? Well, after an evening of barre exercises, you’ll remember them. You’ll remember how nicely they helped you walk before, because you won’t be able to now.
Also, dance is essentially it’s own language, and most of it is French. Don’t try and understand everything (or anything). Just keep your eyes on the teacher and copy them to the best of your abilities. The words will come later (I hope?).
One trick I’ve discovered? Ignore any direction for your arms. Trust me. Just forget about them. Yes, you’ll look kind of silly, but if you can manage to get the footwork first you’ll at least be able to move across the floor with the rest of the class. Otherwise you risk standing rooted like a tree, waving your wrists about in position four-and-a-half before giving up altogether and jogging back in line with your fellow grand jeté-ers. Again with the red-faced mortification.
… I don’t feel the need to criticize the shape my curves take — I’m just grateful for the discovery of what my shape can do.
But you know what? Even when I’m breathless, drenched in sweat, or falling over, I can’t keep the giddy grin off my face. Dance is exciting! There’s so much to think about and learn that my brain is always occupied, which is thrilling. There’s no time at all, for instance, for me to think about how flat my tummy is or isn’t — I’ve got to make sure my back is straight for those spinning chassés. I never once have a chance to lament the size of my thighs — I have to get my leg bent properly for that battement-attitude. And when I see myself in the mirror (there are a lot of them in dance studios) I don’t feel the need to criticize the shape my curves take — I’m just grateful for the discovery of what my shape can do.
I might be the most awkward dancer on the floor, but with every class I’m able to climb inside myself and understand my limbs a little more. It’s completely worth each hurdle I have to face, because this body is finally starting to feel like mine.
I’m looking forward to Month Two.
Catch up on Chapter 1, here.