Last night I went to an actual dance class for the first time.
Not Zumba. Not step-aerobics. A dance class in Philly for parents, adult beginners, and other gawky human beings with necks like storks.
I’ve always loved to dance, ever since my mother would hold impromptu dance parties in our living room to records like Rufus and Chaka Khan and CeCe Peniston’s “Finally.” I lived for weddings and school dances, where I had an excuse to show those skills off on a real dance floor.
For whatever reason, it never occurred to either of us that I ought to take an actual dance class. While I’ve gone mashed-potato for mashed-potato with my mother for years, it isn’t quite the same thing as learning choreography.
In the ensuing years I’ve taken a lot of gym classes with dance elements, but they’re always more work-out than dance steps. I had one fantastic Zumba instructor who did the bare minimum of Zumba and then plugged in tons of great pop and hip hop into the rest of the class and pretty much treated it like we were training to be in music videos. I was sorely disappointed to find that wasn’t the norm in other classes.
Ever since then, whenever I meet new people doing any kind of fitness-related thing, I always ask them, “Have you ever been to a real hip hop dance class for adults who have never danced before? Like, I want to get as close to Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 as I possibly can.”
I’ve fielded a few suggestions recently, some of which were great workouts, but nothing quite hit the spot when it came to choreography. I lamented this on Twitter a few weeks ago, and one of my favorite people (and personal motivators) Liz called me on it. She, too, wanted to find an adult dance class.
So, late that night, I turned years of whinging into action. I found the website of every dance academy in a 10 mile radius and scoured them for adult classes. I narrowed it down. We made a plan, along with E and another friend. And, last night, for the first time in my life, I attended a REAL ADULT DANCE CLASS.
(Also, check out E and I doing an actual learning activity together. We are so incredibly competitive that this is rarely a good idea.)
Our class was at Move Makers, a dance academy slowly taking over a roomy martial arts studio on the second floor at 2100 Chestnut (it’s over the coffee shop; the door is on 21st street). The class was actually called, “Hip Hop for Parents,” which not only indicated it would take it easy on us novices, but also that it had built-in child care!
Here are a few things I learned in my first adult dance class:
- I have decent rhythm
- Despite having decent posture, when dancing I always turn my toes slightly in, which closes off my whole body
- A big reason I look awkward when trying to learn dance steps is that I don’t have any give in my knees.
- My knees are old and creaky, but maybe not as old and creaky as E’s.
- I never know what to do with my arms
- The sexier you want the dance move, the better I am at doing it.
All throughout the class, I found myself reflecting back on 7th grade. It was my first year in a public school and in a class four times as big as I was used to. In some ways I blended in, and in others I was more obviously an outlier.
One way was that I walked with a switch in my hips. I didn’t even realize it at the time, until other boys pointed it out. It was less teasing and more, “You’re probably going to want to stop doing that, dude.”
I did. I remember that the day I had that conversation in my home run I had En Vogue’s “Funky Diva’s” in my walkmen. It was probably the reason I was walking around with a switch! I dutifully trained that out, but when I did I think I lost a little bit of my connection with the daily rhythm of life, and with my hips.
In class, my instructor kindly admonished me. “Dance comes from the hips, even when it’s not a step that’s not using them. You have to feel the rhythm in your hips.”
With a smile, I invited a little bit of that old switch back into my life.
We’ll definitely be back to Move Makers, once we better figure out the challenges of our schedules and parking in center city. The four of us stuck around for a bit to chat up founder Vince Johnson and to catch a few minutes of his House dance class, and it looked awesome.
Now to graduate from the “Hip Hop for Awkward Storks” class so I can move up to the Janet Jackson level.