Ficklish Blog

Monday, February 16, 2009

Dancing Queen

So, I’ve never been a dancer. Sure, I have been known to shake my not-inconsiderable arse in various adult establishments on occasion over the years, but ever in any kind of organised fashion. I was never an adorable three-year-old in a tutu, I never learned how to tap. I did do gymnastics in a fetching purple leotard, and my proudest achievement was winning the handstand competition on one memorable Saturday morning.

Given all this, I’m not entirely sure why it seemed like a good idea to sign up for a Bollywood dancing class.

I know when it happened. I was sitting in a restaurant in Brick Lane, having dinner with a jolly crew to farewell the wonderful MIA, who was on his way back to Merica. I was transfixed by the flatscreen TV in the corner, playing an endless loop of shiny happy Indian folks dancing about in an energetic and stylish manner. I thought to myself, ‘wow. That looks like fun.’

[It later became clear that I was coming down with a nasty bout of flu and was at that particular time suffering the effects of a highly elevated temperature].

Fever notwithstanding, the idea stuck and when I recovered I did a bit of googling. A suitable beginner’s workshop was found, and I rocked up to commence my experiment last Monday evening.

It was raining really hard. The venue took some finding, and I arrived bedraggled, clumsily juggling bag, scarf, iPod and glasses. This inability to coordinate my movements was to set the tone for the rest of the evening. I walked in the entrance and just past the desk was a scene just like every dance movie I’ve ever seen: a giant open room with wooden floors, mirrored walls and a large crowd of people moving in unison. Spooky, and intimidating as hell. It’s a cliché, but everyone there looked like they belonged: lithe, graceful and coordinated in a way that I know I am not. My gut went all clenchy with the nerves.

I sucked up all my courage and walked like I knew what I was doing up many flights of stairs to find the studio I was looking for, only to be told that the changing rooms were in the basement. Of course they were! I trudged all the way down again and enjoyed ten minutes of English Changing Room fun. Why, oh why, do they prance about in their underwear? I will never understand. One woman sat on a bench eating a muesli bar, watching the room, impassively surveying the nakedness as she waited for someone or something or I don’t know what. It was creepy. I scuttled out of there as fast as I could, wondering anew what the hell I was doing there.

As I stood outside the room waiting for the previous class to finish the nerves started to dissipate a little. The class was huge – a giant group of people bouncing about, having fun, making it look so very easy. I started to get a little bit excited. There was a tall, pasty white guy at the back grinning widely, flinging his windmill arms about madly, having the time of his life. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. When their class was finished and our group shuffled in, I was delighted to note that he was wearing thick dark braces with his acid wash black jeans. Spectacular!

As I took off my shoes I noticed that the room was, in fact, about half the size I had thought it was. Oh yes, that’s right. MIRRORS. If there’s one thing I loathe more than exercise it’s having to watch myself while I do it. This was not going to be pretty.

And so, the class began. It was a beginner’s lesson and there were only a handful of us and a perky instructor. She launched into some stretches, boppy ones done to blaring bhangra music. So far, so good. Then she showed us a few basic steps which formed the basis of the warmup routine. By the time the first song was over I was winded and sweating like a bastard.

The rest of the class consisted of learning chunks of choreography and then stringing them together to music. I found that I could kind of approximate the footwork, or the hand movements, but putting them together was chaos.

I had cleverly decided not to wear my glasses. As mentioned above, I tend to perspire somewhat profusely, and I figured that constantly pushing my spectacles up my face would make me look even more bumbling than I was. The advantage of this situation, though, was that I couldn’t make out the instructor’s face in the mirror very clearly. When she repeated instructions, ‘no, not like that! You’re not screwing in a lightbulb! Put your shoulder into it!’ I couldn’t tell if she was talking to me. She probably was. I’m really good at screwing in lightbulbs.

Some of the steps were tricky. She’d demonstrate, we’d follow along and repeat again and again until we mostly got the hang of it. There was one move that caused particular trouble. It was kind of a sliding step followed by sticking your butt out. “Shuffle, then hip”, she would call as we tried – and mostly failed - to copy her movements. “Shuffle, then hip.” This went on for some time until she stopped, a little exasperated, and said, "I’m obviously not explaining well. Let me see if I can make it clearer.'

[Thoughtful pause]

"It’s really kind of a shuffle, followed by a hip.”

I cracked up. Well, when you say it like that…!

Restraining the chuckles was a challenge throughout the class. I decided early on that I didn’t want to be playing the equivalent of hit-and-giggle pool – no-one likes that girl – and that I should try to demonstrate that I was taking it seriously. I really didn’t want to be ruining it for all the serious dancey-types around me.

I tried really hard. The more I stumbled, the harder it got to keep a straight face. When we strung the steps together, I’d keep up initially, then miss something (usually the shuffle/hip) and scramble to catch up, feeling more than a little ridiculous.

I had fun. I really, really sucked. Everyone else seemed to manage fine, obviously dance class veterans of long standing. Catching glimpses of my awkward, lumbering self in the mirror was unpleasant, so I kept my eyes on the instructor’s arse. The music was infectious. There were a couple of (very) brief moments where I got my hands and feet coordinated enough to actually enjoy the movement – actually dancing rather than concentrating on the pattern. I got sweaty, I jumped about. Then, when it was over, I emerged into the rain smiling and exhausted.


Blogger Unknown said...

OH! I want to come and visit and go to a class with you- sounds like fun.


1:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds wonderful! Much better than hanging around furtively waiting for you to come out from the studio - why didn't I mount those imposing stairs for a sticky beak!


3:29 AM  
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