I like to try something new every now and then, so this year I decided to take “shaking it up” literally. Yes, I signed up for belly-dancing classes. I do not expect this to contribute in any way to building my self-esteem or maintaining what little dignity I possess.
I went to my first class this weekend. I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty. I’m not uncoordinated, but I’m incapable of translating verbal instructions into useful movement. I know that. I’ve known it for years.
I was the woman flapping around like a brain-damaged goose at the back of aerobics class in the 80s. I’d barely have caught onto a move when they’d change. Forget lagging one beat behind; I was a whole song behind.
I had the same problem in Jazzercise. The instructor busted out a new move and the rest of the women nailed it in minutes. I flailed around as if in the throes of an epileptic seizure for the rest of the class.
It’s no coincidence that I haven’t attempted anything of the sort for decades.
Part of my problem is scale. In the studio mirror, I look as though I’ve been badly Photoshopped. I’m in proportion by myself, but I’m scaled up 10% compared to all the other cute little women. When my arms are extended, they span six feet. This means I need a LOT more space than everybody else. This is not viewed kindly by anyone standing next to me. Particularly not if the choreography involves vigorous arm movements.
The other problem is that my body is conditioned to run, jump, kick, punch, and heft heavy objects as forcefully and efficiently as possible. This does not translate well to activities requiring feminine grace.
But I knew all this up front. My expectations were realistic.
I arrived at the studio early and bought a bright, jingly hip scarf. It fit. So far, so good. (Yeah, I know it’s virtually impossible for a hip scarf to not fit. But like I said: low expectations, yada, yada.)
The other students were half my size, but that was no surprise. The instructor was (shockingly) almost as tall as me. For a few moments, I had hope. Then she moved.
Oh my God.
The woman was sheer grace.
She explained the dance posture. Even standing still, she was graceful.
I tried to copy the position. I looked like a linebacker with hemorrhoids: ready for scrimmage, but poised gingerly on tiptoe.
The hip scarf didn’t help my look. I have no hips to speak of, so where the other women’s scarves draped gracefully on their bodies, mine looked like a bandana tied to a telephone pole.
Then we started some simple choreography.
Well, the rest of the class did. I galumphed around in the back row, seven beats behind. I know it was seven beats because there was one merciful portion of the song where we shook our hips for eight beats, and I caught up on the very last one. Then the dance went on, and I was lost again.
On the up side, I discovered my core strength and flexibility are good. Maybe by the end of the course, I’ll even be able to do something remotely attractive with them.
Or maybe not.
But, hey, I’m shakin’ it up. And if nothing else, it’ll be a character-building exercise.
I’ll keep you posted…