When I was at drama school we had dance classes every day. This was not a pleasurable experience for me. My headteacher report at the end of the first term said that I acted from the head up and I needed to connect with my body. I’m sad to say that I didn’t really understand how to do that until I was much older, probably my 30’s. However in the meantime, I was 21 and I had dance class, every day, in leotards and leggings, in front of full length mirrors, surrounded by people who were much thinner than I was and could most of whom were pretty good dancers.
We studied period movement, (dances from olden times with ridiculous names, like the cavort, well not the cavort but you get the gist), ballet, jazz, tap and body conditioning. (The girl who taught jazz to us now runs the Zumba class where I run my choir, she still looks like she’s in her twenties. She was teaching me 20 years ago, so jazz dance/Zumba must be good for you.)
Dance class were a form of torture to me. I was not good at remembering the moves, I was not good at weight transference and whenever I turned I completely lost where I was.
After drama school I attended a couple of classes at Pineapple Dance Studios in London. Beginners classes. I was still not good at remembering the moves, I was still not good at weight transference and whenever I turned I completely lost where I was. But I didn’t have to go so I stopped going.
Then I tried again, a few years later, I went to a musical theatre dance class at the Dance Xchange in Birmingham. Each wee we learned a dance from a show, worked on it a bit and then ran it. I was still not good at remembering the moves, I was still not good at weight transference however I worked out that if I didn’t turn then I got a bit less lost. I take progress where I can find it. Those classes were fun. Embarrassing but fun.
I have gone to some Zumba classes and they were ok. I wasn’t so worried about that as it was too crowded to be seen and lots of people were rubbish too. Also it was an exercise class not a dance class.
Then a few friends set up a tap class. I said I would like to go. I avoided it for the first 2 weeks. Then I decided I had left it too late and I wouldn’t ever catch up so I had better not go. I had all sorts of excuses not to go. One of the group, Anne, who attends my choir, said that how I am scared of the dance class is like how she was scared at my choir when she started attending. It’s hard to believe anyone is that scared of coming to my choir as I was of that class but I suppose it’s possible.
Last week I mentioned the class to my friend Natalie who seemed keen to go. The class day came, Monday. I was tired. I’d had 4 hours sleep. It wasn’t a good idea to go to a dance class. I messaged Natalie to say I was too tired. She said that was fine with her and not to worry. Then I saw that she had texted me before then to ask about going. So I relented.
We were nearly late but the parking was great and then suddenly, there I was, in a room full of people who see me as their choir leader, utterly freaked out and there were those mirrors again. Full length in all of their glory. And there I was in all my glory. Wearing borrowed tap shoes that hurt my feet.
I began at the far side of the room, far too far from the door. I was freaking out. I was doing the steps but I was freaking out. Every part of my brain was screaming “why are you here? Why do you torture yourself like this?” I felt a need for some water and went to my water bottle. And stayed by it, near to the door. Natalie said that she could see me literally edging towards the door. No one was sure if I would stay or go. Not even me. I was embodying the song by The Clash.
I spent the first 1/2 hour feeling desperately uncomfortable. I really regretted going. It was certainly not making me as happy as it would have made me to go to a cafe and have cake and a mocha. Then my friend Lucy said to watch the teacher’s feet. So I did. I ignored my reflection and looked at her feet.
It was then that I realised I could sort of do it. The teacher was so good at breaking it down and keeping it simple. My friends were happy to ask her to repeat anything they were confused about, which was pretty similar to the things that I confused about. (They do that at choir too, they like to tell a teacher when they are lost).
At the end of that class I had got most of the steps right and I realised it wasn’t that I am un-teachable at dance, it was that the classes I had been in weren’t right for me. And I wasn’t ready to be un-self conscious enough to learn.
At the end the teacher asked me what I do on a Tuesday night. She runs a burlesque class and said that although I hid it she can see I carry myself in a theatrical manner and I would probably do well in her burlesque class.
I still think that a shy singer can hide much more easily than a shy dancer but I’ll stick with this and see where it takes me. Maybe one day I will try the burlesque.