Monday, June 29, 2009

FAT to fit: Not so tiny dancer

From (Hanover, MA):

By Dana Forsythe

This week, I had my first dance lesson ever.

But first, a little background. In 6th grade, we had a school dance. I vividly remember sitting on a heater along the outskirts of the cafeteria floor. As couples congregated towards the center of the floor in pairs, dancing to such hits as "Jump Around," "Whoomp! There It Is" and "Rump Shaker" I held close to the sidelines.

Since then I've danced only a handful of times. At weddings, I avoid dancing like it's my job. Even at clubs or bars, I've never been a fan of getting up and showing off my moves. Side note: my moves consist of swaying, doing a horrible running man and nodding my head.

This has always made me feel incredibly self-conscious and enormously aware of my lack of rhythm. Truthfully, when I get out on the dance floor it’s like Donkey Kong trying to dance. I'm not talking about Super Nintendo Donkey Kong either; we're talking 8-bit, throwing-barrels-at-Mario Donkey Kong. You know that back and forth, awkward stomp.

In a move to remedy that, I headed over to Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Hanover last week. Douglas and Christine Banks, the owners of the studio, were nice enough to accommodate me this week as I brought my own brand of dancing into their lives. Christine even played the part of my dance partner.

I’m pretty sure I won’t be doing the foxtrot or meringue anytime soon, since I was tripping over my own feet half of the time, but it was really cool to learn something new and get out of my own head.

Both Mary Beth, one my instructors, and Doug laughed at me for wearing flip-flops on Friday. Despite telling me specifically to wear some sort of shoe, I went ahead and forgot all that and showed up with the worst footwear you could bring to a dance class.

As I’ve mentioned before, dancing holds a certain stigma for me. But, during the class, I just let go. For the instructors and the Banks,’ they see this kind of thing all the time.

“We get it all the time,” Doug Banks said. “People are very nervous when they see a room full of people dancing, and they immediately say ‘I can’t do that, I’m going to be the worst student you’ve ever had’.”

One thing they did say stuck out to me.

When I asked them what they liked about dancing, Doug replied that it allows him to enjoy and express what he loves about music.

“When you get to a club, or just hear anything you like you can get up and dance instead of just swaying back and forth,” he said.

On Saturday night, I got to put that idea into practice.

Although I attended the American Craft Beer Fest this weekend, I think I may have burned off all the calories I took in with just one night of dancing. Yes, I said dancing.

The band was Rubblebucket, and they absolutely ruined the stage at Harper’s Ferry in Boston. (That means they played great)

By chance a friend of mine had proposed going to the show after the beer fest and since I had nothing to do afterward, I said I might tag along. We got there around 10 p.m., just in time to see the Jamaica Plain-based band set up. Within five minutes, with saxophone, trumpet and trombone blaring, they erupted on the stage.

The best I can describe the music was manically happy and tribal. It had hints of electronic music like Bjork and Portishead, but the overall roots were in afro beat and funk. Along with my former Mission Hill roommate, several of the neighborhood peoples were at the Rubblebucket show.

While I’d like to think I danced my rear off this weekend, I know it wasn’t anywhere near how hard my friends danced. But, it’s not how good you are or how silly you look when you get out there.

I was reminded of that this weekend. It’s about how much fun you’re having and how the music makes you feel.

This kid I used to know, Andrew Fleming, was a roommate of mine when I was living in New Hampshire many winters ago. Fleming is a special dude. He has the uncanny ability to see any situation for the potential fun that can be had.

No matter how many people he knew or didn’t know, he would enter any social situation and immediately be the spark to start the fire.

A year before we lived in New Hampshire, he was at a party in Manchester.
As the night went on a few friends began noticing him dancing, and there was also a steady stream of young women trying to join him.

“He was literally boxing these girls,” I remembered fellow friend Josh Drumm saying the day after. Apparently, Fleming feeling a bit tipsy and just enjoying the music, was doing his best Sugar Ray Leonard impression, shadow boxing his dance partners.

He never once hit anyone, but the facial impressions on his would-be dancing partners were priceless. After a minute of trying to dance with Fleming, their faces would turn from a ‘this guy is pretty funny’ smile to a ‘is this guy serious?’ nervous tick.

The whole point though, is he was oblivious to all of it. He was having fun, just enjoying the music and being Fleming.

It’s something I remember anytime I feel the need to get up and dance.
To let go, accept your faults and just do something outside of your comfort zone is the only way to tackle things like this. It was clear I was going to mess up a bunch and most likely look like a stiff taking dancing lessons and then again on Saturday night, but at least I finally got off that heating vent.

On Wednesday, June 24, of this week, Driton "Tony" Dovolani will be at Fred Astaire’s to teach private lessons and hold an introduction to ballroom dancing class. Dovolani, came in third this year with scorned bachelorette Melissa Rycroft.

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