Dancing Queen, Day 1: Afro-Cuban Jazz

I was having a pretty basic day at the office. Kicking back work assignments and surfing on the Internet, reading Internet fluff. Namely, articles about how there wasn’t enough exercise in the world to offset the health risks of our largely sedentary lifestyle.

Reader, I had a panic attack. I felt like I was going to die in that chair and I really, really didn’t want to die. I ran out of the office with this fleeting thought that I would take half the day off and just go dancing for the rest of the afternoon.

I did eventually crawl back and finish the work day, but the thought of dancing stayed with me. And I chose to listen to it, by putting myself into a dance class.

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A friend of mine told me about Joy of Motion Dance Center (JOMDC) and to my great delight, they had a New Student Deal, offering a week’s worth of classes for $20. Since their single drop-in class rate is $19, this is a sweet deal indeed. I’m gonna be blogging my week of dancing with JOMDC.

A Bit of Background

I told the instructor of my first dance class (Afro-Cuban Jazz with Angela Ingram) that I haven’t taken any serious dance classes since I was at least 10. When I was a child, I was crazy about ballet and somewhere inside of me, that little ballerina still wants to break out in pliés and pirouettes. Eighteen years later, I don’t know why I stopped– some combination of my usual creative blocks, not having enough money and fears that nobody wanted to see me dance. But especially after that panic attack on Friday, money concerns and the opinions of other people seemed so small next to the possibility of health and joy.

At 28, I feel brittle. I feel like it won’t take a lot to break me. And I want to come up big and strong. Like a dancer.

Day 1 @ JOMDC: Afro-Cuban Jazz with Angela Ingram

I was so excited to dance, I got up at about 6:45am on a Sunday without the help of an alarm clock. I got to the dance center in Friendship Heights with plenty of time. (JOMDC conveniently has 3 locations and so many dance class options, you will tearfully wish science would hurry up and figure out time travel so you could attend them all.)

I picked an Afro-Cuban Jazz class plainly labeled “beginner” as my first class. It sounded esoteric and intriguing, a mash-up only a dancer could come up with. And it was labeled “beginner” which meant they were going to be gentle with me, right? Like strapping-water-wings-on-a-baby gentle, right?

As it would turn out, beginner meant “never taken an Afro-Cuban Jazz class before, but I am a fit adult who’s probably danced more recently than the age of 10.” The other beginners had at least danced in college or studied a different type of dance. When I admitted to my level of inexperience, the instructor asked me if I exercised much. I said, “no” and she laughed, almost apologetically, knowing full well what I was about to get into.

“I do want to work out,” I said to her. “That’s why I came in the first place.” She nodded and boy was I in for it.

I’m not entirely sure how to describe Afro-Cuban Jazz exactly, other than the fact that we did a lot of moves that had ballet names, worked with a lot of water imagery, and pretty much held our arms above our heads for the better part of 1.5 hours. Thankfully, the instructor was kind enough to do an interview with the JOMDC website, so you could learn all about it. I rediscovered an unsettlingly large number of muscles who suddenly wanted to remind me that yes, we’re here, you haven’t come to play with us in awhile, kindly don’t forget us again. I can still hear them grumbling and it’s been three days.

To be clear, it was far from an unpleasant experience. It was invigorating and everything I hoped for in a dance class. The instructor was attentive and really cared that people learned something and got full workouts. She came back to me often. Sure, she came back to me laughing that almost apologetic laugh about how my out-of-shape body was getting wrung out by her dance regimen, but by the end of it I was laughing too. How could you not? I probably looked like a mess. But I was taking what ground I could take and loving every moment of it.

And it was FUN. It was fun to laugh and dance and samba. I couldn’t wait to dance some more.

NOTE: As a budding filmmaker, I am highly inspired by how invigorating dance is. I want to shoot a series of Dance Gives Me Life videos around Washington, D.C. I want to showcase the city, showcase different kinds of dance, and most of all, showcase how dance gives me and others life! If you’re a dance or a filmmaker local to Washington, DC and this sounds invigorating to you, email me at thecreativity.ambassador@gmail.com.


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