Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Jambar Challenge


By: Jared Buker REPORTER

It's June. I'm in a stiff tuxedo. My feet are aching from the rental shoes, and my ears are ringing from the feedback of the speakers. The disc jockey fades out the music and announces the final song of the night. I spring from my seat, slip off my plastic dress shoes, and begin executing the perfect YMCA. The bride and groom laugh as I wear out my socks on the dance floor. I am the hit of the wedding.I'm also 6 years old.

Fourteen years later, things are different. I despise the thought of dancing in front of people unless there's a blinding strobe light distorting everyone's vision. There's something impeccably awkward about a gangly, self-conscious kid with his hair in his eyes trying to look smooth. I have two left feet, and they're pigeon-toed.

The odds of me ever being a good dancer are about the same as the proverbial snowball in hell. So when I decided to attend a dance class taught in Beeghly Center, I really only had one thing on my mind.Don't step on anyone's feet.

My partner, Ty Sidney, can attest to the fact that I kept my feet to myself. Problem was, I was so focused on my shoes that I rarely looked away from them. To prepare for the class, I watched the first few episodes of ABC's "Dancing with the Stars."

That didn't help.But anyone who saw the start of the new season will understand the mantra I used to get through the class.Be like Evan Lysacek, not Buzz Aldrin.

To clarify, that just means try and be graceful like an Olympian, not sluggish and wheezy like an aging astronaut.

All kidding aside, Ty and I caught on quickly, to our surprise. We learned the country two-step, which is the ideal dance for beginners because you don't actually lift your feet off the ground. The two-step is very traditional. You put your hand basically on the shoulder of your partner. It took several strangers telling me to get my hand off their hip for that to sink in.

The class was taught by Dustin Jones, ballroom competitor and co-owner of the Fred Astaire Studio in Youngstown.

Talk about pressure.

Honestly, Jones was incredibly patient with the class, doing an excellent job of explaining the two-step in a way even the rhythmically-inclined could comprehend. After only an hour, I felt like I could almost trick someone into thinking I knew how to dance. There was an undeniable sense of family amongst the dancers in the class. This was the nicest group of people I've ever met. It's nice to feel so welcome when entering a situation that is foreign to you, and I would absolutely be thrilled about going back to learn a new style of dance.

Dustin told me that my performance was actually quite impressive. He felt I picked up on the movements quickly, was rhythmic, and had great footwork.

Tell that to my high school tennis coach. He once told me I had the grace of a vending machine.

One thing I learned about the two-step is that, for the most part, the man is in control. This is a daunting task when you lack the necessary confidence, but by the end of the hour, I felt like that old self-consciousness had melted away.Dustin said that was what the class is all about. "When you realize how much you can learn in an hour, it gives you the confidence you need to be a good dancer," Jones said. I would be skeptical about such a concept if I hadn't faced my fears and seen it firsthand. So with my newfound confidence, I feel like the next logical step is to join the "Dancing with the Stars" crew.

I just need to get famous.

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