Jul 9, 2013 by Jenna Zine
DanceAfrica-2010.-Photo-by-Enoch-Chan-29-650x250.jpg

I have a thing for African dance and I've wanted to take a class in it for about 10 years. (Did I mention that I'm a bit of a procrastinator?) Well, last week the opportunity finally presented itself and I jumped on it. The first session was scheduled for July 3rd and I had some pretty sweet plans for the 4th already lined up. I thought about postponing my class in favor of a champagne tasting at my favorite wine shop. What was one more week after all this time when I could get an early start on celebrating America's independence? Could anyone blame me? Well, it turns out I could blame me. I'd made a commitment damn it, and I was actually going to follow through. The email for the tasting got chucked and the workout gear came out of the closet.

As I strolled to class I had a huge grin on my face. I was nervous, but I was going to do it! I arrived at my destination to find a group of people practicing karate. This was definitely not what I'd signed up for. Shaking my booty? Yes. High kicks in hopes of splitting a wooden board in two? No. I finally got someone's attention who informed me that the time on the flyer was wrong and I was about half an hour early. "Hey, I could still make that tasting!" "No, you're already here. Sit down, Jenna." And so I did. I listened to that mysteriously insistent voice instead of my usual "Aw, fuck it" conversational thread. To pass the time I read Celebitchy on my phone, hiding it in my bag so as not to be disrespectful to the black belts currently occupying the room. I didn't want to find out the hard way that they may not be fans of celebrity gossip. 

Finally the karate class cleared out and I sat alone. Oh, crap. Then a man in a Dashiki showed up. This, my friends, was my teacher! He seemed just as confused as I was to walk into a room of one. We discussed the possibilities. What could've happened to the others? Should we proceed? My theory on my missing classmates was the same as my almost-skip: "Dude, it is the eve before July 4th. The people are partying." His theory on if we should proceed: "Why not? You're here. I'm here." Damn it. At this point I was really wishing I was chillin' with some champagne. I gracefully suggested that I could come back next week. (By "gracefully" I mean passive-aggressively offered to make his night easier in hopes that he would accept and I could run away to Division Wines relatively guilt-free.) He, in turn, gracefully declined, told me to take my shoes off, and get out on the floor. 

We started warming up and I thought, "What the heck. This isn't too bad. It's just the two of us, no biggie. We don't need music, we don't need people. This will work just fine with the stomping of our feet and the clapping of our hands." And it was fine... until three twenty-something guys with Djembes came into the room, reluctantly ready to drum for us. It turns out they were the nephews of my instructor and, like me and my other missing classmates, were very much hoping for a night off. Instead, at the insistence of their driven uncle, they were called into to work at the last minute to watch a fat, white, middle-aged lady (spoiler alert: that's me) flail around the dance floor, running after their uncle with a confused look on her face. Things got even worse when I was asked to switch up the steps and move in reverse. (Though I wrote John Travolta a fan letter as an 8-year old asking him for free disco lessons, I have since learned that I cannot dance backwards. I still blame Travolta to this day. Clearly my skills would be through the roof if he'd fulfilled my request. Who doesn't give free disco lessons to a child? Only an animal, I tell you.) 

As for me? I wanted to shrivel up and die. It was bad enough being there alone with the instructor as I watched myself struggle in the mirror. But to have an audience of resentful* young men (not) cheering me on? (One of the guys even drummed with one hand while checking texts with another.) Dear reader, it was mortifying. But, as my teacher said, they were here, I was here (and it was definitely too late to back out now) - so I danced. I did it anyway. My heart pumped, my body sweated, my face smiled in spite of it all and, ultimately, I lived through it. I still really want a fucking glass of champagne though. 

[Photo Credit: Not a photo of my class, obviously, because there are actually people in this picture. Dear fellow classmates, whomever you are, please get your asses to class tonight.]

[*I want to note that the guys were great and very nice to me. It was just clear that everyone wished they were somewhere else, myself included. This post is dedicated to my best friend Cathy who, when I told her this story, laughed until she cried and had the good sense not to sugarcoat how simply hilariously humiliating this experience was.]
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