Tonight I took a step back in time. I took a dance class.
Since the age of six, I took dance classes, and the dance studio became a haven for me. Home was confusing or frightening, school was awkward and stressful, but the dance studio was just comfort- something I was good at that gave me the opportunity to divert my attention away from everything else. You can’t focus on anything else during a dance class—nothing but the music, the steps and your own rhythm.
I continued taking classes all through high school and even into college, but the last time I was in a studio in a class was over 18 years ago. EIGHTEEN. I thought about that number in the car on the way to the studio. 18 years. That was probably going to be the age of most of the women in the class. So they were NEWBORNS the last time I was in a studio.
I was lucky enough to find an adult class in the first place, much less only a mile from my house. I knew I needed to go. I called months ago about the class and every week, something came up (real or not-so-real) that kept me from going.
I know I need to exercise and be healthy. I want to lose weight. And the only type of exercising that appeals to me is the main form I spent most of my young life doing. So taking a cue from my last blog post—I ran out of reasons to wait.
I got to the studio early and was almost overwhelmed at the response I had just moments in the door. A ballet class was finishing up, the students all around the age of 14. I felt such a sense of familiarity and nostalgia standing there, the music blaring, watching these girls—remembering when this was all second nature to me—when being in a dance studio was when I felt the most “right” and comfortable. That was when I started asking myself why I had waited so long to come back to dance. I knew I wasn’t going to be as light on my feet, or walk into the studio with the confidence I used to. I knew I was out of shape and a LOT older than I was the last time I was here…but it was a part of me—who I am—who I was---a part of my life I loved and enjoyed very much for many years.
I was a bundle of nerves watching the students file in for my class. All younger, most with tiny dancer frames, with varying levels of experience. I actually had butterflies when the teacher came to the front of the room to begin. For a second I eyed the door, afraid I would make a fool of myself. Then, the teacher jumped right in, starting the music from a remote in her hand, and I didn’t have time to think.
It was hard. I definitely learned how out of shape I was—and the figure I saw in the mirror seemed foreign to me—having stared at my much younger and thinner self in dance studio mirrors for so many years. But I was keeping up and sticking it out.
I had told myself beforehand that no matter what, I had to make it through the whole class. And although I was sweating and breathing harder than I had in awhile, there was no question about me making it through the entire class because I was having such a great time.
I remembered why I loved dancing so much. The freedom of expression- that beautiful unison of a group of dancers in sync, creating something graceful while exercising out stress, worry, and excess energy. The other thing I used to love was the kinship between dancers—an unspoken respect for each other—and an understanding of the desire to make each step right, have each beat spoken for.
And tonight, one of the most wonderful surprises came from my fellow students. I was definitely the lowest level dancer there, had trouble with some steps, couldn’t find my footing in more than a few instances. The younger girls especially were so sweet and encouraging—cheering when I got a tough combination (finally) that we had to do one by one across the floor. Not an ounce of judgment or questioning why I was in “their” class. So touching and exactly what I remembered from my fellow dancers so many years ago.
I know tomorrow morning I will be reminded of just how out of shape I am, and will discover pain in muscles I didn’t know I had. But I will also remember how I felt when I walked in that studio earlier tonight and heard those first beats of music.
I was ready to step back out on the dance floor.