I’ve loved to dance since my first class at the age of three. I remember learning the 4-count break down of the Pas de bourree, Arabesque, and mastering the basic foot work positions. Mostly, I remember feeling a strong sense of belonging and joy which urged me to keep dancing.
By the time I was five, I was ready to mix it up. I’d seen the movie, “Annie,” starring Ann Reinking and fell in love with Ann’s cool, sensual dance moves. To me, the child immersed in 1980s Miami culture, all dance was either street style or ballet. Ann’s style of dance was graceful like ballet, but edgier like street dance. My mother said the style was something called, “Jazz.” Jazz.
We left Miami-Dade and moved to Orlando a few months later. Mama and Grandma took me to a little dance studio, down the street from our new home, and and we toured the location during class time. The studio owner asked me, not my family, what style of dance I liked.
I peered through the window where an advanced jazz class was taking place. I said, “I dance ballet, but I like jazz.” She liked jazz too and had danced with Fosse; I didn’t know who he was yet. The teens, in their jazz boots and scrunchies, whipped around the floor with grace and ended their expression in crisp, dramatic poses.
I affirmed that I wanted to enroll in jazz and my grandmother assured that I would continue ballet in addition to new disciplines. While I waited for the new dance season to begin, I kept my dance skills sharp by diligently doing Mousercise on the weekends.
I was the youngest one in my beginning class, but rocked my first recital to the tune of “Hip To Be Square.” The upper dance instructor, Miss Cheryl [O’Neill] allowed me to register in intermediate dance the following year, despite the fact that the age difference in that class was even greater. I was six and most of the kids were nine to eleven years old. Despite being the class baby, Cheryl knew that for me, Jazz was expression of emotion. I danced my heart out for her– and moved up with the big girls to the advanced class the following year.
Jazz connected my heart and body and stirred feelings I wouldn’t understand for some time– some, I can hardly decipher as an adult. Last Fall, I started dancing again for the first time since my teens. My gym, formerly known as Lifestyles Family Fitness, offered dance fitness. I was very skeptical before trying the class. Step aerobics and Zumba don’t count as dance for me. However, after my first Sh’Bam class, I was hooked.
Sh’Bam blends jazz, hip-hop–and even shades of belly dance and latin disciplines. We did real choreography. We formed friendships and encouraged each other… but, of course, like every cosmetic or product I’ve ever sworn by, the class was cancelled last week.
What will I do now? I have family and friends who dance at Florida Tribal Dance in Orlando– I’ll be signing up for my first beginner’s class in 22 years and I couldn’t be more excited to see where this new dance will take me…
What does dance mean to you?