I went to the gym earlier this month to check into prices for a membership. I took the price and class information and told them I would be back when the weather turned bad, I prefer to run outdoors. I spent the morning working on my novel, and when I got off work this afternoon didn’t dare explore country roads in the dark (boo to the sun setting earlier). I took out the flier I had picked up earlier and decided tonight was the night I would start my 7 day gym membership trial. What do you know, a 30 minute ab class starting at 8:15p.m. (which I definitely need) and an African dance class starting at 8:45p.m.
That’s kind of late isn’t it? I could stay indoors where it is warm and sit and watch t.v., I could curl up with a cup of tea and read a book or I could get on Facebook for countless hours chatting with friends–The excuses could continue…
“No, I say to myself. You’ve never taken an African dance class before. Why not try it out.” I had no idea what to expect.
After 30 minutes of ab crunching, I walked into a room with six others. It was a small class. My big smile as I entered the room lead to automatic introductions (and little did I know that the class was a progressive dance class, meaning the same six had been dancing together since June). I met Saneo, the dance instructor from Senegal, who was wearing bright red, green, yellow and purple balloon style pants. He had a contagious smile, and was ecstatic to practice the little English that he knew. Within moments, Elage, also from Senegal, was beating the hand drum with his hands, the tambourine type things connected to the drum shook in rhythm, as though a whole band was playing. Grazia, an Italian woman, stood next to Elage manning another two drums that she hit with a stick that had a ball attached to the end. The music was loud. It was fast. It made me want to dance. I removed my shoes so that I was barefoot like the others and stood in front of the mirror behind Saneo.
Within a few moments of the music starting, Saneo, started moving his body–warming us up. I watched. I imitated. I probably looked ridiculous, but in that moment I was loving life. I moved my arms, I stomped my feet in a way I have never done before. The warm up steps were liberating movements for my body–it was like a fast stand up version of yoga…stretching, pulling, feeling each muscle move.
Then, the beat changed. Each person went to pick up two wooden handsticks that had course straw-like string coming out the ends. We began to dance the KuKu, a fast paced dance. The rest of the class knew all of the moves. Me… I jumped, hopped, lunged, kicked and wailed my arms around, trying to learn in beat as I danced KuKu for the first time.
The beat changed again. As before, I mimicked my way through the second dance (can’t remember the name, it starts with a D, it sounded like Dorma). By this time, my heart was racing and I was glistening (as girls don’t sweat…we “glisten”) like I had just ran a marathon. It was one of the most fun and exhausting workouts I have ever had.
At the end of the class, I chatted with the others–they congratulated me on my dancing, amazed that this was the first time I’ve taken an African dance course. I promised to come back the following week, and am quite excited because Ejah is also bringing me a cd of African music to listen to! I had asked him about names of musicians I could download from iTunes, and he said he would burn me a cd of his favorites. I also made friends with two girls in my class who were completely thrilled when I suggested we meet for coffee in the future so they could practice their English (and of course, I could practice my Italian).
Had I stayed at home, I wouldn’t have found out how much fun and how great of a workout African dancing is. I wouldn’t be curious about listening to African music. And, I wouldn’t have made new friends, with whom I am going to meet for coffee.
I am glad I went. I am glad I challenged myself. So, my challenge to you is to take a dance class. Whether it be from your gym, a private lesson, or at the very least, get on YouTube and try dancing to the Kuku http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wuyhFuJ6IBk or any other dance you’ve always wanted to learn!
I hope many of you participate and don’t forget to leave me a note on how the challenge went!