Monday, 21 December 2015

Learn to dance

I have always been something of a list maker - something I inherited from my mum - and going back way, way before I ever thought of the Year31Project, we're talking about ten years ago, I remember writing a very special list, that in many ways was the precursor to the Year31Project.

Less of a bucket list, more of a glorified to do list, ten years ago or so, I wrote a list of things I would like to learn to do and stuck it to my bedroom wall. I can't remember all of the things that were on the list but it looked a little something like this:

Learn to cook
Learn to fly a plane
Learn to ride a horse
Learn sign language
Learn to dance

A list that remained completely unticked for the best part of a decade - until the Year31Project finally came along - and in truth still remains mostly unticked today.

Learn to cook.
I'm not much of a cook. Cooking is not something I take joy from. I don't hate it but neither do I find it enjoyable or particularly relaxing. I tend to do it more out of necessity haha. But compare to my cooking skills ten years ago, I'm practically a Michelin star chef. I can't do anything too fancy but I can rustle up a stir fry or roast you a chicken. Plus recently I bought a cook book for the first time ever and although I'm not sure about the fella on the front and I don't plan to do the accompanying exercises, there are plenty of tasty and healthy recipes inside:

Learn to fly a plane.
This is something I have always wanted to do but something I have never even come close to achieving. It's a pretty expensive thing to do and I have always had someone to tell me that it's too dangerous but it remains something that I definitely want to do (I maybe just need to want it a bit more if it's ever going to happen).

Learn to ride a horse.
This is one of the first things I thought of when I started my list for the Year31Project. I still can't believe I got to the age of thirty - and now thirty two! - without ever riding a horse. This is definitely something I need to correct (and the sooner the better really).

Which brings me to:

Learn to dance (the reason for this blog post):
I've always enjoyed dancing. It's not something I'm particularly good at and it's not something I would attempt to "showcase" in public but it's something I've always taken pleasure from doing. I've always had fun grinding away at the centre of the dance floor in a dark club. Although, of course, that is one thing but dancing in public or even in a dance class; well that's another thing entirely! But the Year31Project is all about trying new things, about taking risks and doing things that take me out of my comfort zone and I've never been to a dance class before. Therefore, maybe if the chance came along to attend my first ever dance class, then maybe it's an opportunity I should take?

Back when I was a kid my sisters both danced but never, not even for a moment was I interested in joining them. I was too busy playing football. Dancing was for girls! I've grown up a little since then, but even so, even though I wish I had better dance skills, I'm not particularly sad that I didn't learn to dance as a child. And although I can't claim it to be a priority now, I have been open to the idea for a while now and so if the opportunity arose, I would be up for learning a few moves. Why not?

So back at the beginning of November it was my lovely girlfriend Liliana's 30th birthday.

And to say I was a little stuck for something to buy her was an underestimate. With a couple of weeks until the big day I was still searching for the ideal present. It was a hard decision to make. However, I had decided one thing. I wanted it to be more of an experience, a memory to cherish rather than a thing, an object, something that could all too easily get lose, broken, replaced and/or forgotten about.

And that's when I thought about dancing. The thought of attending a dance class frightened me a little. However, Liliana loves to dance and has a natural rhythm I don't necessary possess. She often mentions that we should go dancing and although I think she probably means in a club, or like that time we had a good boogie at Winter Wonderland:

A week before her birthday, I had a flash of inspiration and booked a Jive Taster dance class for the two of us (obviously! Haha). Unfortunately we had to wait over a month for the class, but hopefully it was going to be something worth waiting for?

I'm not sure exactly what Liliana thought about my choice of present. Maybe she would have preferred jewellery? But I'm pretty sure that as the evening approached she was pretty excited to give Jive dancing a go.

I booked the class through a company called City Academy. Who would appear to be a rather large and fairly professional company? However, one thing that did disappoint me slightly and make me a little reluctant to sign up with them in the future, was that on the lead up to the taster class, I was informed on two separate occasions that the teacher(s) for the evening had been changed. Now this didn't really make too much of a difference to me and maybe should reflect negatively upon the individual teachers themselves, rather than City Academy. However, unfortunately it did give me a bit of a negative opinion of them as a company.

But in the end that really didn't matter. The class was great. It was held at the famous "performing arts venue (mostly contemporary dance) Sadler's Wells. Well it was upstairs, in a backroom somewhere, but it was a nice big studio with plenty of space and light and a million mirrors, so that you could see yourself from every possible angle while you danced. Although whether that was a good or a bad thing, well I'll leave that up to you to decide.

Unfortunately the turn out wasn't great. The room did feel a little empty with only seven students and one teacher but at least there was one other man there with me haha. And the teacher we ended up having for evening was very good. She was patient, encouraging, knowledgeable and of course a very good dancer. Everything you could want, when turing up to a class as a complete beginner.

Our teacher was a woman called Elena Plescenco, who as a leading ballroom dancer - amongst many other things - has been Portuguese National Latin Dance Champion multiple times with her long time partner Carlos Custodio. She is also a very experience teacher, together with Carlos they run their own dance school Flow Dance London.

Upon arriving, and before hand, I was definitely a little nervous about the class. The main reasons for this was due to the fact that the email confirmation I had received had this fun little note at the end:

"This is a social class, so you will be asked to rotate partners.

But don't worry! Dancing with a variety of partners (including your teacher) will enhance your learning experience, give you confidence in your new skills, & benefit the group dynamic."

Well I did worry. I definitely worried. That note, coupled with the fact that upon arriving, it was hard to miss that I was the only male there - although another guy to turn up a little later - led to a fair bit of worrying. I really wasn't very sure about dancing (badly) with women that I had never met before!

Luckily however - apart from a slightly terrifying but ultimately very helpful 5 minute of dancing with the teacher - I did in fact spent the entire lesson dancing only with Liliana. Which definitely put me at ease A.though maybe she might have enjoyed partnering up with someone who didn't step on her toes every two seconds, for part of the lesson at least haha.

Although perhaps, I'm doing myself a slight disservice there. I don't think I was that bad? I certainly wasn't a natural. I didn't discover a talent I never knew I had. However, considering just how fast Jive is - we did a slowed down version, but still - and taking into account the fact that I was a complete beginner, I think I did ok?

But more importantly than how I got on, I had fun and more importantly again; I think that Liliana both appreciated the gesture and enjoyed the evening? All in all I think it was a bit of a success. At least I hope so.

Here we are mid-flow, laughing because having your picture taken is awkward at the best of times and because we've probably just gotten it all wrong, again!

So, maybe - although finding an evening when we're both free might prove pretty difficult - just maybe, it might be a good and fun idea to join a weekly class and learn Jive (or another type of dance) more fully? I think I'd quite like that. What do you think Liliana? Although I'd definitely still be a bit nervous about the whole idea of rotating partners!