For the past five months, twice a week, I have been teaching a dance class of my own creation called Dance Lab. It's been one of the most positive & thrilling experiences of my life. And it's gotten me in really good shape. I created the class based on a variety of influences in my life--my extensive training in acting & improvisation, my dabbling in modern, ballet, tap, swing, salsa dance, my grad training in movement & dance therapy, my longtime practice of pilates, yoga & meditation as well as my deep love for making dance playlists and holding dance parties.
Before I created Dance Lab as a class, I did the same practice in my living room. And before that, I occasionally went to a Zumba class taught by an incredibly vibrant woman in her 60's named Jan. Jan is a powerhouse full of love of dance. I hadn't been to Zumba for a long time because I now have my own practice, but my friend Dominique invited me to join her on Friday for a Mexican Zumbathon at the Eijido Building (a community center) in Todos Santos. When we arrived to the giant space, there were 40 Mexican ladies in spandex leggings and neon tops waiting to dance. And then off in the corner was a group of 4 Gringas, including Jan, and her daughter (also a Zumba teacher) in the same type of outfits. In another corner were 3 Mexican men, wearing matching outfits--all in black. Dominique said she felt like the Sharks were about to fight (or have a dance-off with) the Jets. I laughed in recognition. Then we burst out into song "I want to live in America." But we were the outsiders, living in Mexico.
Finally the music started, and one of the Zumba instructors (pictured right with the Don't Walk Dance T-shirt on) began dancing in the front. She had so much dance pizazz, it was amazing to watch. And then every one followed her moves, everyone, that is, except me. Now here's the point of my story: although I have always been a dancer of some sort, and am often the first one to get the dance party going, I have never been very good at absorbing dance routines. Trying to figure it out puts me in my head and out of my body. I suddenly can't tell my right foot from my left. It's frustrating. And it's no fun. This is why I created Dance Lab, it's a space where you don't have to learn steps, but instead you can create your own (taking inspiration from particular dance forms, but with out having the pressure of being correct.) Zumba is all about learning steps and moves. I want to love Zumba because I love to dance, and I love to dance with others. But instead, I feel like I am spending all my energy trying to follow the moves instead of dancing and expressing myself.
I was reminded of this once again at the Zumbathon. But this time I tried something different. If the moves were easy to follow, I would follow them. But the moment they got too complex for me to follow, I just did my own dance. And through doing my own dance, I felt my body come alive again. It was inspiring to watch the six different teachers-- Gringas and Méxicanas & Méxicanos do their moves with such confidence and joy. What I loved most about the experience is just the feeling of being around a lot of people dancing. The energy is infectious. And there I was, in the back row, sometimes dancing with the crowd, sometimes doing my thing. My very own one-lady Dance Lab.