As I have previously threatened in this post, I tried out a modern course yesterday. For those of you not in the know, I’m not talking about a present-day, state-of-the-art course as opposed to all the retro ones. I’m talking about modern dance.
I had signed up for a test lesson on a whim before the summer break. At that point, I had just quit hip-hop and was looking for a conveniently located Monday evening class to further, uh, further my dancing. The school I found mostly offers ballet to various grades and ages, but also has hip-hop, contemporary, jazz and modern on the menu. It belongs to an aged ballerina matriach, which intrigued me.
And here comes the story of how I made it through my first modern class, leaving the teacher with a better impression of my abilities than I deserve.
I arrived early, always a good idea before a new class. The studio is accessed through the dressing room, from which I conclude that men aren’t something that happens there often. The door was open, allowing me to watch the center part of the open ballet class that takes place right before modern. Stroking my imaginary beard, I came to two conclusions: a) I can’t do ballet on that level yet, and b) neither can half the people in the actual class. The mixed blessings of a mixed-level group, I guess.
After most of the ballet aspirants had left – two stayed for modern – I got to meet both my teacher and the Matriarch herself, who apparently makes it her business to know all of the school’s many students. My teacher, A., is young, blond and quite charming. I’m going to refer to her as Jaina. The studio website states she’s been teaching there since 1998. Unless she started when she was eight, she looks at least 10 years younger than she is. Or maybe time machines are involved. Lots of spaces you can hide a TARDIS around there. Just saying.
The class itself was great: fun, dynamic warm-up and a surprisingly strenuous core work-out followed by technique and choreography, almost all of which involved rolling around on the floor because modern. It is the rolling-on-floor-part that allowed me to make the good impression.
You see, my jazz class is only about 80% jazz. Y. has danced pretty much every major kind of dance at some point and likes to incorporate elements from modern, latin, afro, reggae and burlesque into our warm-up an choreography. Of the many possible ways to roll on the floor to music, she is especially fond of the starfish – contraction to the side – starfish variation. Which, of course, I also had to do in modern.
One of Y.’s substitute teachers, a tiny ball of energy, showed us another exercise: a backwards roll over your shoulder. Which – guess what? – we also did in modern. While the teacher might have thought I was doing it for the first time, I wasn’t. In fact, the first time I tried to perform that particular move, it looked shockingly different. I distinctly remember everyone else rolling in circles around me like tumbleweeds while I was lying there with my butt in the air, thinking «What is this sorcery?!».
In short, it felt and looked like this:
But, thanks to Y. and her sub, most of the things in my first ever modern class seemed at least vaguely familiar and I did reasonably well. Unfortunately, my brain completely overheated at this unexpected perceived success and I forgot to ask Jaina what she thought of my abilities. What came out of my mouth instead was «Woohoo, where do I sigh up?». Since her answer to that was not «Somewhere friggin’ else», I’m just going to assume she thinks I’m good enough.
Whether I actually am remains to be seen. The first class after summer break was, in Jaina’s words, nice and easy. Also, when I say I’m good enough to attend this class, I don’t imply I’m actually good at modern. That will come, hopefully. For now, my body does not yet comprehend the concept of a rond-de-jambe where the spine isn’t ramrod-straight.
It helps that another young woman has only recently joined the class. While she hasn’t danced since early childhood, she’s currently preparing for the black belt exam in Aikido. That definitely gives her an edge in the whole rolling thing.
The rolling, by the way, feels amazing after a day at the office. Untying-the-ponytail-and-taking-off-the-bra level of amazing. (If you have never done either: It’s one of the best sensations in the world.)