Lately, I’ve been restless. Don’t get me wrong–I highly enjoy my regular workout routine of pilates classes (mat and reformer) with a not-as-often-as-it-should-be mix of cardio. But my gym time feels static, and I have an increasing urge to get up and move! Thinking back to my younger days (i.e. when I was 20), I miss dancing, especially the dancing that didn’t focus so much on turnout, number of revolutions, and finding abstract meaning behind a lower back contraction.
Last year, I tried an upbeat, heart-pumping class at Rhythm & Motion in the Mission, but these days, with how dependable Muni is (that’s written sarcastically by the way), I’m looking to add some extra oomph to my exercise regimen without too much traipsing across the city. Last Monday, I started taking ultra-beginner ice skating group classes at Yerba Buena, and it’s a nice change from the usual post-work routine. I go with a friend, and we encourage each other to keep gliding or swiveling our skates in and out. One day soon, I hope to pick up my left skate and sweep across the ice in an applaud-worthy balance, but for now, I’m more focused on staying upright. Yet it’s not dance, so perhaps I need to begin an “Ice Flash” column detailing my attempts to skate across the ice on one leg for longer than three seconds…
Even with my new-found interest in ice skating, I’m still itching for something else, especially something that didn’t cost an arm and a leg. By last Friday, listening to random music I’ve never heard of on Pandora, I made an executive decision and set my alarm for Saturday morning. Sixteen hours later, at the crack of dawn (oh, OK, 9:30AM), I was at the gym, ready to pump and bounce. It was hip hop time.
Granted, I’ve taken dance classes before, but I honestly can’t recall ever taking a class specifically dedicated to hip hop. Ballet, jazz, contact improvisation, release technique, musical theater, Horton, generic modern, tap, African, Latin America–all dance forms firmly under my belt, but hip hop had yet to be added to my personal repertoire. Until now, that is.
Not knowing what to expect, I showed up to my gym (Club One at the Fillmore Center) Saturday in gym clothes, which was a smart move. Everyone else was dressed similarly in tank tops, yoga or sweat pants, shorts, and sneakers, with towels and water bottles in hand. I had layered, which helped my body get warm quickly. Also, to all the women out there: please remember to wear a supportive sports bra. You want your pups to bounce with you, not to and fro on their own.
Our instructor, Mario Ponce, a large guy with shiny blue and black cropped hair, arrived and soon my fellow hip hoppers (me and about 25 people, men and women) were stretching, loosening our muscles and bodies for what was to come. The warm-up was fairly short, and next time, I think I’ll do some extra pre-class stretching, especially for my hamstrings. At Club One, each hip hop class begin a new routine at the first class of the month. Successive classes involve reviewing “old” material and then learning several new phrases. By the end of the month, you’ve learned a whole dance.
To begin, we learned the first few counts of eight. Mario broke the more difficult steps down, and every so often, classmates would ask questions to clarify where the head should go or the timing of a turn and how it relates to the drag step (as in dragging the leg; not an AsiaSF dance move) to the right. Speaking up was encouraged, and as we moved along, Mario changed the song playing overhead, giving us much needed variety and a chance to play with the speed and timing of the movement.
Taking this class definitely challenged my brain to think. What comes next? Where the hell does my arm go? Is it a hip pop or a hip shake? And how do I get from my mini-triangle pose to facing the back wall in one count?
I won’t lie–somewhere around the 30-minute mark, I started second-guessing myself and my seemingly insane choice of hip hop over waffles and Saturday morning cartoons, but I refused to give up. We looked to each other or Mario, tried our best, smiled, and as the class progressed, we got better. With every run-through, our moves tightened, people fumbled less, and even when we laughed about our own individual goofs, we looked good!. While we probably weren’t prime-time worthy, the claps of encouragement and sweet smell of success (not the sweaty BO smell, but the other one) have motivated me to go back.
If you’re interested in kick-starting your new year with hip hop (or any other) classes, check out your local gym’s group exercise schedule or:
Avenue Dance Studio
San Francisco Dance Center
Sunset Academy of Dance