Saturday, September 20, 2014

Dance dance revolution

As someone who admittedly gets bored pretty easily, and also regularly craves novel experiences, I make an effort to seek out new things to try whenever possible. In some instances this works out brilliantly; other times it ends up more in the “been there, done that…moving on" column. Case in point: finding a dance class here in Chapel Hill has so far proven to be more difficult than I anticipated. I have no desire whatsoever to do tap or ballet, which is mostly what the local studios offer for adult clients. Casting my net a bit further afield, I decided to venture to a studio in Durham, to sample a class billed as “Lyrical/Contemporary”--a genre I’d never attempted previously.

I first attended the Advanced Beginning level, assuming that with some dance experience--even if it was a different type--I’d be capable of catching on to what they were doing. Um…yeah…not so much. I don’t know if it was my lack of background or the teacher’s style (which was pretty much “jump right into a choreographed routine, without actually instructing on how to perform the individual moves beforehand”), but I was basically lost from the get-go. Okay, then, Plan B: dropping back to the Beginning group. When I strolled into the room, however, the very first thing I noticed was that everyone in the room was…about 20 years my junior. Awwwwkwaaaard. So while I was (slightly) better able to follow the steps, I spent the entire hour feeling out-of-place and uncomfortable. Obviously I won’t be continuing with that one, either…

Which leaves me with…absolutely nada. But…in desperation, I found one more option to test out: a fitness class called Nia, which according to this description lifted directly from the website is body-mind-spirit fitness and lifestyle practice that combines dance, martial arts, yoga and self-healing. Through expressive movement, Nia empowers people to achieve physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. Uplifting universal music guides your body to move in a way that is natural for you with no comparison or competition. Nia delivers cardiovascular and whole-body conditioning and creates one of the most exhilarating, dynamic, creative, playful and fun classes ever!” Well jeez, that sound just peachy!

Stepping outside of your predictable little box is a good idea, right? And all fresh experiences provide potential for growth and self-improvement? (Yeah, let’s go with that…) So I figured I’d give it a shot, and showed up for a session. The teacher (whose name, incidentally, was…Haven…and I ask you, can it possibly get more…organic…than that?) greeted me warmly and made me feel immediately welcome. So far, thumbs up. Then the rest of the participants started trickling in…and when I looked around a few minutes later at the very small group…I was the only one who wouldn’t qualify for a Senior Citizen Discount. (NOT that there’s anything wrong with that! I’m just saying, suddenly the tables had turned, and I was the…proverbial Spring Chicken…sigh…)

Before officially beginning the lesson, Haven had us stand in a circle and introduce ourselves. Then she explained that we always set an intention for the class--okay, I’m used to this, as it's standard in yoga as well. (Mine is usually something along the lines of “I want to leave here calmer, stretchier and more focused than I started out this morning”...) So the next words out of her mouth were (totally not making this up) “Today, we’re going to sense…the inner arches of our feet.” I’m sorry, WHAT? I couldn’t stop myself from glancing around to see if anyone was grinning in response to the joke, but there was only intense concentration and utter earnestness on the faces of my fellow…Nia…ists. Oh. Dear. What had I gotten myself into? 

At that point we were asked to close our eyes, focus all of our attention on those freakin' inner arches, and see what other sensations we could pick up throughout our bodies. And then we were expected to share. I admit I was panicking a little, as everyone else had something utterly serious and profound to report about their “balance” or the “energy flowing up through the center of their body” or their…“right shin” (again, NOT making this up, even a little bit). What the HECK was I supposed to report--the truth? That I was sensing…incredible feelings of foolishness…mixed with no small amount of…mild embarrassment? (Yeah, I fabricated something about my knees being out of alignment, or some such nonsense, and sold it with what I hope was a straight face…best I could do on the fly…)

Finally, Haven cued up the music to kick off class. Ahem…it was some sort of tribaldrumming…number…complete with...chanting. And evidently--as I was literally startled to discover--the members who regularly practice this kind of exercise feel inspired to whoop…and, I don’t know, bark?…and otherwise randomly vocalize along with the accompaniment. It was all very…earthy, I suppose. And the actual, physical portion of our hour? We followed Haven in all kinds of swaying, arm-waving, reaching, bouncing, undulating, spinning, balancing…stuff. There were also periods when she would call out for a “free dance interlude” and we just…well…did whatever the heck we pleased for a few minutes. There were other times when she led us in mimicking the natural movements of various animals (actual words cheerfully called out over her shoulder at one point as she demonstrated clawing gracefully at the air in front of her with both arms raised overhead: “BEAR FACE optional!” Ay yi yi...)

Holy…Dances with Wolves…Batman, that was one wild experiment! I think it’s obvious that, although it was amusing…ONCE…I will not be returning for a repeat performance. I enjoyed myself to a certain degree, but it didn’t constitute much of a strenuous workout. Let’s just say it’s not my cup of…psychedelic tea. So it seems that I’ll need to do some more digging in my quest for dance satisfaction. Next New Experience, here I come…(Bear face optional!)

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