Dancing - Utilitarian and Then There's Art for Art's Sake
So off I went and signed myself up for a semester of workout classes at the gym. The portfolio of classes on offer is quite interesting, and for a one time fee, you can attend as many different classes as you want. What got me very excited was the fact that many of the classes on offer were dance based, there was Cardio Dance, Jazz Dance and Aerobics and Hip Hop Dancing. I had so wished that there would be some Belly Dancing too, but probably they don't have an instructor for it. I decided to attend a class a day and enthusiastically checked out as many classes as I could the very first week.
Of course, as soon as the first class began, I knew it would be a hellish initiation back to fitness for me. My well-rested body was loathe to let go of its repose, and croaked and groaned at every jump, kick and stretch. Several times, I paused in agony as one muscle after another developed cramps, unwilling to stir. The temptation to give up is always lurking at the back of the mind, and it is always hard to justify such arduous activity when the gains would be painfully slow in making their appearance. Exercising is hard, and I know people who've resorted to the most outlandish dieting for dramatic weight loss rather than become regulars at the gym.
And yet, when puffing and panting, I caught my breath and looked around, I became even more determined to continue. For all around me, were young undergrads, many of them sorority girls, pretty and skinny, and each one of them several times more fit than me. The ab crunches that left me nearly breathless, seemed like almost like bar hopping for them. These fragile-looking little girls were nothing less than pocket dynamoes, and the best motivational and inspirational figures in the world. It was strange that they were at once motivating as well as intimidating, because I also felt terribly embarassed for my lack of drive and energy, as well as the flab that clung to me. And yet somehow this dichotomy was held in perfect balance in my mind as the ideal carrot-and-stick to keep me going.
So far I've been good. I tend to flag at times, the body has pleaded mercy in the past, wriggling out of a disciplined gym regimen. But I'm hoping that my past follies have been ample warnings to not tread down that path again. And this is hard work, but super fun too. There's some funky music involved, lots of butt-shaking, and I'm learning new dance moves. I'm discovering muscles that I didn't know existed. And to my dismay, realizing just how uncoordinated my limbs are. There's a Yoga class as well, offered by a genial, sweet white dude who ends his class with an almost religious pranam, with his entire upper torso leaning forward as he said "Namaste!" Who knew the greeting was such a spritual experience for some. He's good, but I need more movement at this point.
In some other news, which is only slighted related to the above account, they've found the worthy successor to Martha Graham and Isadora Duncan, and it is none other than yours truly. In a bizarre turn of events, I, whose limbs never move in synchronization, who is the laughing stock of friends on the dance floor, have been asked to join a dance performance group. I'm still utterly bemused and shocked. It turns out that our dear friend E-M (the actress, now back in town) recommended my name to a friend of hers, a dance instructor who wants to build a Greek folk dancing group from scratch. Now on what basis would E-M make such a recommendation, I have no idea, suffice to say that at times E-M does stuff that is incomprehensible to mere mortals.
I'm clueless about Greek folk dances, I've watched them plenty, and at times even been dragged to join a simple group dance at Greek festivals. And this is a notch above, for after we've been trained and primped, we would be expected to give performances in Greek community festivals. Of course all this may never materialize, it all depends on how much progress is made in forming the group, and in about a month or so the picture would be clear.
The strangest part is that I stunned myself by agreeing to it. Let me explain. I have terrible stage fright. I'm the kid who avoided school annual days so I didn't have to collect any prizes awarded to me by going on stage. I get extremely nervous while making presentations, and even the thought of asking a question in a crowded seminar sends my pulse racing. For me to participate in a public dance performance is an extremely daunting prospect. And yet, in the general feeling of bravado that I've been floating on top of these days, with regard to my dissertation timeline, my research, my gym regimen, I unhesitatingly said yes. For one, there are the free lessons. And then, as I said in the beginning, it is important to tackle a problem head-on by admitting to it and boldly go where I've never ventured before - to my dazzling future stage career, providing a slice of old country nostalgia to Greek papous (grandpas) and ya-yas (grandmas).
Well, I'm exaggerating a bit, I did once contribute my lovely squeak to a school choir rendition of "We Are the World", but I was in the back row, most dimly lit corner. And then there were some dance performances many eons ago (when my age was still in single digits), but again, I was all the way in the back, virtually invisible, dancing with my socks and buckle shoes still on (I was supposed to be a sakhi of Shakuntala!). That experience wouldn't stand me in any good stead now, and perhaps I should invest in a really wide-brimmed hat and a face mask. It could all be incorporated into the show, and in a twist of sweet irony, my quirk would potentially blow away my obscurity and make me famous. Aah, such speculation, before even a single practice session has started. Actually, the boyfriend and I are really looking forward to this; he wants to join in too, because he's wanted to learn folk dances forever.