52 Exercises: #12 Jazz Dance (and Learning to Let Go)
Remember your first day at school? The 52 Exercises quest is like being the new kid over and over again. Every week I’m filled with fear and nervous excitement in equal parts. Every single week I have to start again from scratch, learn the ropes as fast as I can and make new friends.
I prefer to hide behind my computer and the written word so this quest is forcing me to get out and it’s forcing me to learn new things when it’s easier not to.
I’m not just learning things like how to survive a Bikram yoga class, ride a horse or play soccer. I’ve also learnt a lot about myself and realised I love writing about my body and fitness because they are the things I’m most happy with in my life right now.
But even though my body confidence has come a long way since I was a too tall, too thin and accident prone child but I’ve still got miles to go.
I’d like to be more like my daughter walks around shops in her bikini without a care in the world. Every Saturday after gymnastics we go to the library and the video store while she’s still in her leotard. I instinctively want her to cover her up but it’s summertime and super hot so she doesn’t want to wear clothes and I don’t want to suggest she should. I secretly love that she has the confidence to walk around in so little. I want that total body confidence too.
But I’m not the only woman with low body confidence. At the Leisure Centre where I go to try a jazz dance class the women are mostly dressed in baggy clothes. Their bodies hidden by flared pants and baggy t-shirts over bra tops.
My clothes are too tight. I wish I was wearing cool dancey clothes instead of skin-tight leggings with a tight top and trainers so old they’ve split at the seams. The women are friendly and welcoming but I already feel self-conscious, remembering how, aged eleven, I got kicked out of ballet classes for being too tall.
The room is soulless, carpeted and painted in drab industrial colours and way to big for six women. Someone has stuck up a poster listing yoga breathing techniques and there are six exercise balls on a high shelf but apart from that it’s bare. There’s nothing to look at except ourselves in the mirror and nowhere to hide.
I try to adjust my mindset. I need to shake off these feelings of inadequacy, pretend I’m in a real dance studio and remember why I wanted to come along: if I could have one special talent it would be dancing. I’d kick my legs over my head freely, move my body easily and make everyone else want to dance and have fun too.
Our teacher Kim is like that. When the music starts she rolls her shoulders, pops her chest out and flicks her toes with complete fluidity. I follow the moves but look like I’ve got a broom stuck up my bum. Kim can even makes rolling over on the floor to stand up look sexy but I’m glad I can even get up at all.
The music’s loud and energetic and sometimes when I follow Kim I’m concentrating so hard on swaying my hips to the beat that I forget to care about what I look like. I’m caught up in how good moving feels and once, catching sight of myself in the mirror, I even imagine I look cool.
The corner work is the hardest part and the most fun. We get to gallop, spin and leap across the room and in those brief moments when my feet are off the floor, one arm shooting out to the side and the other pointing me forwards I feel weightless, timeless and unstoppable. The other women, the room and my body and confidence issues have vanished.
But then we start to do the dance routine the others have been learning for six weeks. It’s not a track I know but Kim mentions a few moves are like Kylie Minogue so I guess it’s by Kylie but I still don’t recognise her voice. I like the track and the moves aren’t too fast so even though I can’t pick much up in one dance lesson I can follow along more or less.
When I get home I look the track up on the Internet. It’s called Get Outta My Way and starts like this:
What’s the worst thing that could happen to you?
Take a chance tonight and try something new
You’re gettin’ boring, you’re, oh, so boring
And I don’t recognize the zombie you turn into
Although Kylie’s singing to her man and telling him to shape up before she ships out it’s a track made for the 52 Exercises quest.
I might not be a good dancer, I might not have the right body shape but here I am dancing anyway. Trying something new, trying not to feel bored or be boring and trying not to turn into a zombie.
It’s hard to let go. We have a life time of conditioning telling us how we should move and how we should look. We’ve spent our lives running from those hard emotions like fear, pain and embarrassment that come from doing something new.
Tonight I haven’t mastered it but I’ve been practising letting go. Letting go of being told I’m tall, too thin. Letting go of considering myself too old and lumpy. Letting go of thinking I’m bad dancer and not good enough at the things I want to be good at.
For a few moments I forgot about always being the new kid and let go of thinking about anything at all except leaping further, reaching higher.
Jazz Dance Class Exercise Review
Cost: $10. My class was at the Noosa Leisure Centre with Noosa 4567 Dance but I’m sure you can find dance classes near you. It’s just a question of going to a few classes to see which one you like best.