Monday, January 30, 2006

Dancing - Utilitarian and Then There's Art for Art's Sake

The first step to dealing with a problem is to admit that you have one. And for months I was in merry denial, settling into languid rest, piling on the pork chops, virtually parking myself in In-n-Out Burger, and not setting foot within 10 metres of the gym. My clothes instead of warmly embracing me, started gnawing into my flesh. And yet I remained unconcerned, after all I was far from plus-size territory, and I still shopped for clothes in stores aimed at skinny 20-somethings. And yet, as the last year drew to a close, I had the epiphany, foresight if you will, that if the current state continued unchanged, it could very well lead to a cumulative damage that would have me bloated beyond recognition. That was a scary thought, because plus size clothing is nearly all hideous.

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.


Blogger aparna said...

Okay, i read this while biting on my dark-rich-bitter chocolate bar. :D

And yeah, am not a plus size. Yet. Also, i haven't yet woken up, hence no gym sessions. Yet.

I have been here many times before. I like the way you write. :)


5:03 AM  
Anonymous anthony said...

somebody said,"I like the way...". lol, my well rested body was loathe.... novelist material, You, Mme!
Please don't waste ur time on ugly urban roadways...just write. :-D

3:31 AM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

Aparna, welcome! What kind is it, I love dark bitter chocolates!

Oh, a gym can be a lot of fun. Besides any health benefits to be derived, it's great for people watching :)

Thank you so much for your nice words.

Anthony, gosh, you're too kind. Actually, I have the greatest admiration for novelists, because I'm not disciplined or astute enough to hold together the structure of a plot and write engagingly as well.

8:37 AM  
Blogger Adagio For Strings said...

Totally with you on how hard it is to continue gymming. Get some good music for workout (if doing it alone, I recommend that Maksim guy I wrote about on my blog). It will be totally worth it when you meet someone after long absence and their jaw drops ;).

12:19 PM  
Blogger satchisgod said...

Dear whoeveritsis...
You don't have a squat of an idea about me, so please don't judge! And for the record, I'm NOT a misogynist...not even remotely.

12:20 PM  
Anonymous Sanity Starved said...

Waah! Something human after all! Stage fright it is! I had that till early grad school, until I gave a presentation while working on the material till the last minute. I think the preparation gets to me because then I want it exactly that way and little things going wrong start bothering me. But, if I don't prepare, I can ramble on without caring a hoot :D

Hope you get through those first two weeks :)

7:43 PM  
Blogger Jabberwock said...

"Clothes gnawing into your flesh"...tell me about it. My waist size has increased by an inch in the last six months. Had thought freelancing would mean I'd have time for a gym regimen, but it hasn't worked out that way at all. Somehow, I do find the time to snack a lot between meals though :-[

(btw my word verification was "absff")

6:36 AM  
Anonymous anthony said...

tagged you..
Waiting for the answer.
Its a nice tag thouhg.. not the embarassing

1:50 AM  
Blogger Old Spice said...

I feel your pain. (Really, I do. I've just posted about my new fitness regime at my blog. Sometimes the very act of typing hurts after a work out.) Best of luck, and I hope you stick with it. The blogosphere is as good a place to get moral support as any.

Stage fright isn't such a bad thing. Often if you perform without any nerves at all, your performance falls flat. (It's the ultimate arrogance, in my view, suggesting you don't care about your audience at all.) I've always found looking straight ahead or into the eyes of a member of the audience who looks vaguely interested a good tonic. I'm sure you'll be great.

I've been a frequent visitor for the last couple of months. Your long discursive pieces are a pleasure to read.

6:08 AM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

Adagio, the music's already there, selected by the instructor. Sigh! it's the distant rewards of jaws dropping that keep me going.

Satchisgod, Please go back and give your comment on Rimi's blog a few careful readings. If you still don't think that was shot through with misogyny, I refuse to deal any further with your delusions.

I do not desire to know squat about you, but you will be judged by your public utterances, like it or not, and those, in this case, were pretty vile.

Pidus, I'm human through and through! Irredeemably so, with all my frailties, though I've accused of being a bit Germanic in the past :). I think no preparation spells a lot of trouble for me. Thanks for the wishes!

Jai, snacking between meals is my worst vice! I try not to buy any snack food because I know I'd be munching away endlessly. Yes, let's get those abs working.

Anthony, aaaaaah! not another tag. But will answer soon.

The graduate, welcome. Thank you so much for your nice words, am glad you like the blog. This is exactly what I was looking for, support and solidarity from fellow bloggers on a grueling regime. And kudos to you, I haven't reached the "fingers hurt while typing" stage yet.

Thanks for your wishes on my stage appearance.

I see you are in New Zealand. I'm sure you've been told countless times how enamoured everyone is of your country, and how everyone wants to visit it.

11:55 AM  
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