“You made it through!”
My new friend Jimmy laughs and takes a sip of his water as our Pon De Flo class comes to an end. I giggle, “Yes I did. That was a lot of fun!”
As some may remember, I kicked off the year by taking two group dance classes–pole dancing and hip hop.
On both occasions, I brought a set of nerves with me. With pole dancing, I was hoping to overcome difficulties accepting my self-image, and with hip-hop I was just trying to overcome the fear of being judged in a group setting. The truth is that prior to this year, group dance classes scared, for lack of a better term, the shit out of me. On a scale of 1-10, my fear of group dance classes ranked around an 8 or 9. To put that into perspective–when i jumped out of an airplane, my fear level was around a 1.5.
I always worried that I’d be judged for stepping the wrong way in Zumba–or for not wearing the right “dance attire,” (please see jazz dance to see what I mean). So if my friend, Tory of LIfe Vest Inside, had suggested the dance craze Pon De Flo before this year, I am pretty sure my response would have been “Pon De NO!” But instead, I jumped at the opportunity for another dance class.
(Sidenote: Pon De Flo is a combination of Caribbean and reggae dance that requires a willingness to have fun!).
As I arrived at Ripley Grier for the 3:00 class with Heather Fay, I didn’t think twice. I slid off my sweat pants to reveal my Princeton field hockey shorts and grabbed a spot on the floor. I looked around and noticed that this class had attracted a great diversity of people. There were men. There were women. And there were people of all sizes, smiling and getting prepped for the next hour and a half of high energy dance. ‘People must really love this,’ I thought to myself. And for a few minutes, I decided to mingle with some of the veterans.
“Get ready to sweat a lot,” said one. “You’ll definitely get hot,” added another. “Just go with the flow,” mentioned Jimmy.
Before I knew it we were flowing right along. “Left, right, left, right, shimmy, left, right, left, right, shimmy.” I kept reciting what Heather was doing in front of the class, in my head. I moved my hips every which way, bounced my booty, and waved my arms. About a quarter of the way through the class, Heather told everyone to move up a bit because the people in the last row didn’t have room. As a member of the last row, I joked, “It doesn’t matter, it’s not like I know what I am doing quite yet anyway.” My back row companions laughed along with me. Just a year prior, I’d be too scared to even speak to another person in a group dance class. Now I was making friends.
A few minutes later, when a step caused us to turn around, forcing me to suddenly be a part of the front row of the class, I momentarily panicked. However, instead of losing my composure, I just began to bust a move and hope it was right. I can definitely tell you this much: It did not look graceful–but it didn’t matter: It was very easy to see that no one was judging me–not even myself.
I didn’t realize this of course until half way through the class when I had an epiphany–or a hobby breakthrough: As I began giggling to myself while I messed up another dance move (sorry Heather!), I noticed that I didn’t care if people thought I was America’s next best dancer–I didn’t care if people saw me mess up–and I didn’t care if my right foot accidentally went when my left foot was supposed to. Eventually, I felt tears begin to fill my eyes. I wasn’t in pain–and I wasn’t ready to run out of the room screaming. No, instead the tears had developed because a great amount of pride had come over me. I realized in that moment, that the fears and worries that I had carried with me just 11 months prior had now dissipated completely. While it may sound insignificant when written down, it was one of the highest points of my hobby year, because it had meant that the hobby year was coming full circle–revealing bits and pieces about myself and how far I’d come, without me realizing that it would.
After clearing out my eyes, I came back to the present moment and realized that the moves were much faster now. I laughed some more. “Just keep dancing like no one is watching, Libs,” I thought to myself. Then I shook it out. “This feels pretty freaking good.”