The text read, “Wanna try my hip hop class tonight? Lots of fun, great workout. $20.”
I almost quipped back, “Sure, and how about some root canal afterwards?”
But I am in the yes portion of my life, so I reconsidered. Was there any good reason to say no, besides complacency and laziness? No, there wasn’t. So instead I answered, “Sure, what time?” And started pondering what a hip hop outfit might consist of.
Now, I’m not afraid of a dance floor. I’ve been blessed with eminently wiggable hips, and what I lack in formal training I make up for in innate rhythm and enthusiasm. (As a matter of fact, one of my first experiences of myself as a sexual being was seeing the look on my high school boyfriend’s face as we danced and he stared right at the bounce in my chest, mesmerized). But I have no muscle memory or sense of myself in space whatsoever. I had to quit tae kwon do because I could not for the life of me remember the order of the moves, no matter how many times they were demonstrated to me. Once I turn in a different direction that the one I’m already facing, I am completely disoriented. I don’t do the Chicken Dance. I don’t do the Macarena. I like to say I don’t do “sheep” dances (where you follow the crowd), but the truth is I couldn’t even if I wanted to, because when everyone is turning left on the Electric Slide, I am crashing into the person in front of me.
But my friend came to pick me up as scheduled, and off to hip hop class we went. Luckily, we were the only two who showed up that night, so my utter lack of ability to follow moves would be witnessed only by one of my best friends.
The instructor greeted us, a beautiful black man in a tank top with the slinky presence of a member of the cast of Fame. He was jamming out to some hip hop, and told us we were going to have fun. I was pretty sure we had two different definitions of the word. His warm up was intense, some deep yoga moves, and I tried to impress him with my flexibility so he wouldn’t notice my lack of spatial ability later on. I did his jumping jacks. When he started making us turn every two jacks in another direction, I accidentally went left instead of right. I cracked a joke. He laughed. Maybe we’d get along after all.
Then he began to teach us the “routine.” It involved starting with legs shoulder width apart, then snapping them together as we rubbed one hand across our bellies, another around our heads. It was intended to look like a Beyonce video, but I was able to make it resemble a kind of seizure. After that move, it was arms up and to the left, then a crouch down on the floor, then slide to the left, slide to the right, then a slinky walk, two beats each step, then walk, walk, one beat, back, back, and turn around.
Lost? Yeah, me too. My body decided the crouch down was a waste of precious energy (after all, weren’t we just coming right back up?), and steadfastly refused to remember to do it. The walk I mastered without a hitch, giving it an exaggerated, rap-video swagger that made the instructor laugh and say, “Damn, girl.”
We did it several times, and each time I forgot a different part of the routine, although I always managed to get the seductive walk right. I was so confused and concentrated, I have no idea if my friend was nailing it or as hopeless as I was. Just when I was thinking I may have remembered all the kicks and turns, he said, “Okay, great! You guys have the first part. Now we add on.”
Yeah, that was just the beginning. There was a “snake to the left, snake to the right,” portion, a hip shimmy, and some walking around in circles. If it resembled anything I’ve seen in a rap video, it was only because of the music he played. I mean… it looked like a rap video when he did it, right on the beat and crisp and effortless in his moves, writhing his body in enticing ways. When I tried it, it was a little like a drunken cat trying to not fall off a ledge. But I got sweaty and I enjoyed the music. And that was probably the point.
My favorite part? After we finished the “routine” (as he so charitably called it), we were supposed to “party,” meaning freestyle dance, letting the rhythm take us but not having to do any specific moves. Now that was my territory. When we got to that part, I hopped around, actually rejoicing, partly because the music felt good and partly because I was glad the organized-steps part of the song was over.
So… will I hip hop again? My friend wants me to. And maybe I could use some new moves. So we’ll see. But my favorite part will definitely continue to be the “party” portion of the song.