3,000 miles away from home I found myself staring up the side of an 8-story brick building that towered above Broadway. Inside, I knew there was an original experience waiting for me.
I’ve figured out in the last couple of years that I have to throw myself into new situations so I don’t get caught up in believing that there are any limitations to the way my life has to be.
I opened the door and walked through a portal that pinched my soul and reminded me that not only was I alive, but I was living. I took the pint sized elevator up 3 stories and when the doors opened I had to fight a smile off my face so they didn’t make me out to be some giddy little bitch that flew across the country to dance.
It was a picturesque space. Warm lighting that softly illuminated a hallway full of dancers. The walls lined with ballet bars and custom built-in wooden benches that looked like church pews.
There were young girls, a grey haired Asian man in ballet slippers that was almost too adorable, stylishly dressed young men, and women with their hair pulled tightly back and their tights frayed at the seams from the hours they’ve spent searching for themselves.
They were all so beautiful. Not just physically, but soulfully. I felt something from being in their presence. My insides came out of hiding to lean against the edge of my skin and peek at something worthwhile.
It was a perfect place for a photo shoot. Off the hallway were half-opened French doors that gave glimpses into the separate studio spaces. There was a jazz class going on that looked incredibly fun, a ballet class with outrageous turnouts that scared me, and a flamenco class that made me smile.
I sat down against the wall and watched the slippers and bare feet walking by me on the 100-year old wooden planks. I saw a girl laying on her back with her legs up the wall stretching. She casually rotated her head along the floor to look across the room at me. I didn’t look away because I felt like it was a place where it was ok to look at people. Plus, I was taking notes. She took one more moment to assess me and rolled her head back to center and carried on with her stretching.
I took off my shoes and let my socks slide back and forth on the ground. I wasn’t a dancer like the other people there, it was their life, but I liked them and I thought I understood why they were there.
The world is cold and there aren’t always opportunities to be yourself. But when you take off your shoes and your feet touch the floor you are that much closer.
I was there for advanced beginner hip-hop. My first question to the girl at the desk was, “what is an advanced beginner?” She said it was someone a little more advanced than a beginner. Made sense.
As hip-hop class got closer, I started seeing some incredibly fresh outfits. Sweatpants rolled up to the calves and Air Force Ones in neon colors. I looked down at my Merrill trail shoes with the Vibram soles and felt like I could have done a little better for myself.
Regardless, these people didn’t know what kind of soul I was about to unleash and I was intending to let them know.
I smiled at my lesbian hiking shoes as well as the Paula Abdul back-up dancers and said my final prayers. This was a personal mission. I was there to find out what kind of story I had brewing inside that brought me all the way to 74th and Broadway, in New York City.
I came to the largest and most prestigious dance studio in New York City to see what I was made of. There was no sense in holding back.
And I danced.
Class was amazing. The teacher was a ghetto fabulous Hispanic chick that said class was going to be “real hood.”
She looked right at me and said,
“hip-hop is a culture and it doesn’t matter what the movements are on the outside but what you are expressing from the inside. It’s about feelings.”
I didn’t feel scared when she said this, I felt at home. Even though I looked like a graphic designer in a room full of people with swag, I knew I belonged.
I dropped my booty about 200 times as sweat poured down my face on the way to my own self-expressive revolution.
We danced to “Bossy” by Kelis and by the end of the 90 minute class I was bossy as fuck.
I thanked the teacher and she asked my name and if I would be coming back. I told her I would be back eventually.
I floated down 3 flights of stairs and out into a city that was then illuminated by street lights and a moon hidden behind the clouds. I took a deep breath and my face gave way to the biggest smile I’d felt in a long time.
I’m not easily moved, but my experience – the nerves, the excitement, the uniqueness, it did more than move me, it let me feel like myself for a little while.
And that felt pretty fucking great.
Of course, here’s the choreographed dance… enjoy…