In no other situation in the world can you be wholly unqualified to participate in an activity, or justly qualified but not a regular face in the crowd, and still be accepted as one of the crew.
So I show up to class about 30 minutes early because frankly it just takes that long to go through the transition from “mature therapist woman” to “hard core OG”.
Sidebar: OG stands for “old gangster”. I have decided that my “it feels good to be a gangsta’” t-shirt satisfies the pre-reqs for me to qualify. Others may disagree. They would be correct.
Anyways, I’m sitting kind of awkwardly, making small talk as people trickle in. Apparently, I am not the only one who needs time to transition from real world to dance form. Hugs and kisses go around as people turn in jeans for sweats, flip-flops for high tops, tanks for slightly larger tanks. We head into the studio. Giulia is running late and Trix is sending us through calisthenics to keep us warm. After sit-ups and jumping jacks, he asks us to finish up with 15 push-ups. I get the “push” part alright. But “up”? As in my body must go…. Not happening. As it turns out I have the wrong technique which is corrected for me by a kind soul who pities what I can only imagine is a pathetic attempt at getting my body to raise off the floor. She didn’t need to help me. But in this world, it is leave no dancer behind. And if you come to dance, then you are a dancer.
I get up, quite proud of my pushup (yes I completed one). By now, a late-comer is going around saying hi to everyone as he finds his spot on the floor. He hugs me, in line with all the others. I am sure he recognizes me only from Kix’s class the week before. I apologize for forgetting his name. He asks me for mine too. Apparently we have never met. Apparently, that didn’t matter for the purposes of greetings. All are welcome, if ready and willing to dance.
The choreography was beautiful, dedicated to one of dancers who had come for cathartic release. Her friends and dance mates, not regulars at E3, danced from their hearts as well. They had driven probably for an hour to show up at a 90 minute class and support their loved one in her time of need.
I don’t personally know the girl for whom we all danced that night. I only found out what the dance was about after the class. But while Giulia explained when to be sharp and when to let it flow, I couldn’t keep my eyes off the dedicatee as she learned her dance. I could see the frustration and the sadness appear through the steps and fade a little more each time the music stopped. Giulia gave her the movements, a room full of supporters gave her the strength, innate talent gave her the release. It was beautiful to watch. Even her few missed steps were met with a smile that truly came from the inside, a place that I’m sure she didn’t think her smile was living these days. I didn’t get it, but I got it. Ya’ get it?
(No? Well then you should have come to class!)
It has been 2 years since I left the comforts of 17+ beginner hip-hop for classes of a different ilk. I will be honest, despite my expertise in communication, I still have no clue what is expected of me when told to “chi-chi-boom” followed by “ha-hoo-hiya”. (And “hiya” is never what I expect it to be… unless JRo is teaching…. in which case it is exactly what I expect it to be.) I am still blown away by how dancers help each other. Rather than try to be the best in the room, they correct each other’s moves. Rather than sticking to their preferred styles, they value the nuances of new choreographers. Rather than judging the dopey girl in the back right corner who cannot figure out how to roll her body while turning her head to the right (and not fall over due to temporary vertigo), they help her learn to do a pushup.
This world has no outsiders, only people who haven’t come in yet.