As I mentioned in a past post, I recently signed up my husband and myself for some dance lessons–specifically, learning the Lindy Hop. I knew that I could attend a million Saturday night swing dances and try the obligatory fifteen-minute lesson at the start of the evening, and my skills would never progress. That’s because I need REMEDIAL help, my friends. My dancing skills are seriously tragic.
Our dance classes are held every Wednesday night for about an hour and a half at the Wilkin’s Community Center in Squirrel Hill. When we entered the building on that first Wednesday night, I realized that there were a whole lot of classes going on in the community center for every possible interest. We passed by rooms where people were salsa dancing, practicing tai chi, and one room where a class full of people were all playing ukuleles. I wasn’t sure what to expect from our class. Lindy Hop isn’t exactly the sexiest of dances, so I wondered if our class would be full of elderly people trying to relive the 1940’s. Fortunately, our class was full of all ages–and yes! There was even another nerdy couple in their 20’s also learning to Lindy Hop. 🙂
I was a little bit alarmed at first when I realized that I wouldn’t be dancing with Justin the entire time. Our instructors forced us to rotate partners every few minutes for the duration of the lesson. (Later, when I actually danced with Justin and realized that he incorporates a lot of spinning into his style, so much so that I feel a bit seasick after taking a turn with him around the dance floor, I was a bit less upset about
getting to having to switch partners.)
Our instructors are very hippy-ish. Our main teacher is a lady in her forties (?) with waist-length hair that she always keeps in a long braid. Her partner is a guy with an awkward sense of humor and a long grizzly pony tail. (The first time I danced with him, I accidentally tugged his ponytail, and I was SO grossed out and embarrassed…Justin never let me hear the end of it.)
During our very first class, my dance phobia definitely kicked in a little bit. I was all about the idea of taking dance lessons, but once we actually arrived and the instructor turned on the music, my stomach started doing little somersaults. I was worried about a lot of things, but mainly, that I would be the absolute worst student in the class and everyone else would be better than me. And the teacher would make an example of me or throw up her hands, exclaiming, “You’re just too far gone! We can’t help you! You’re beyond instructing!”
This may stem back to eighth grade gym class. And doesn’t all psychological damage date back to eighth grade gym class? Someone at our school (and I doubt it was our bitter, overweight P.E. coach) decided that we should all have swing dancing lessons. Our P.E. class was usually divided by gender; however, for about six weeks, we came together and received formal dance lessons from professional instructors in the gymnasium. We must have looked ridiculous dancing out on the basketball court, decked out in our gym uniforms (with our last names inscribed on the sleeves in Sharpie). I remember switching from partner to partner–some with excitement, and others with dread (Eww! I have to touch HIM?) There were so many sweaty, nervous hands planted firmly on my back that I had a hand-shaped sweat stain on my shirt by the time class was over each day.
Here I am again, many years later, forcing myself into dance lessons for some inexplicable reason. Nervously wiping my hands on my jeans, hoping that the stranger I’m about to dance with won’t notice that I’m sweating bullets. Hoping that the instructor won’t blow the whistle and demand that I drop and give her twenty push-ups. Thankfully, these lessons were nothing like the eighth grade.
The instructors went slow. We honestly spent about ten minutes just walking to the beat before we even started dancing. And the instructor praised me when she saw me walking correctly. I was doing it right!!
When it began to get more complicated, I started making mistakes. My mistakes were especially noticeable when I danced with the male instructor. I found myself compulsively apologizing. I could feel that high school shame and embarrassment creeping up on me, and I had a moment when I found myself wanting to bolt out the door and quit. But everyone in the class, including the instructors, were SO nice. The instructor told me that he made just as many mistakes (if not more!) when he was first learning. I realized it was kind of ridiculous to expect to learn something completely new without making any mistakes…no one does that. I also relaxed enough to realize that sometimes my partners were the ones making mistakes, and it was their fault we didn’t get the move right, not mine. They were apologizing, too. Can you believe that? That a guy would actually be afraid that I was getting frustrated with his lack of skills? I was so relieved to find that I wasn’t the only one not getting it! We were all, thankfully, at relatively the same level.
And then I would take a turn dancing with Justin, and he would spin me around and around until I got dizzy and nearly fell over…which would make me giggle, and make him laugh, and then we were trying to stop laughing and be quiet because the instructor was talking, but the harder we tried to stop laughing, the more laughter would just bubble out of our throats, against our wills.
The most important lesson I learned during that first Wednesday night? That laughter and dancing actually mix.
Because for me, dancing used to be about fear and anxiety. And stern concentration.
And excuses, like, “I just need to go use the bathroom,” or “I’m feeling thirst– maybe I’ll go get some punch?” just to avoid the dance floor.
Even if a don’t become a pro at Lindy Hop by the time this class is finished, I hope I can learn one very important lesson: dancing is supposed to be fun. 😀