Tag Archives: dance



My friend Lou is athletic and likes to try new things. She has lots of friends just like her. (I’m a friend NOT just like her. While I do like to try new things, I’m not athletic. I can barely walk without falling down. I like inside activities like reading and writing. The sloth is the animal with which I feel the most affinity. Lou and I are different, but we can still be friends.)

The last time I stayed at Lou’s place, one of her other friends suggest a group Zumba excursion.

I’d heard of Zumba. Someone I used to know had been a Zumba instructor. But I’d never been to a class, and I didn’t really know what to expect.

(I learned a few things when I did an internet search on Zumba. According to Wikipedia,

Zumba is a dance fitness program created by Colombian dancer and choreographer Alberto “Beto” Perez during the 1990s…[1]

Zumba involves dance and aerobic movements performed to energetic music. The choreography incorporates hip-hop, soca, samba, salsa, merengue and mambo. Squats and lunges are also included.[3] Zumba Fitness, the owner of the Zumba program, does not charge licensing fees to gyms or fitness centers.[4] Approximately 15 million people take weekly Zumba classes in over 200,000 locations across 180 countries.[5])

Although I didn’t know much about Zumba, Lou invited me, it was the start of a new year, and I was in yes mode. I agreed to go.

The class fee was $6. As I’ve written about that time before, my funds were meager. I thought six bucks was cheap enough for a healthy activity, and I’d get to meet some of Lou’s other friends. How could I go wrong with a healthy social activity?

Although one of my goals was to meet some of Lou’s other friends, I don’t remember any of the other women with whom we attended Zumba class. I don’t remember a name or a face or a personality. While I think at least some of the women met us at Lou’s house before the class, we didn’t spend much time together. People arrived five minutes before it was time to leave, then we all left in multiple cars. (I rode with Lou.) During class, there was no time to talk, and after class, people split. So much for being social.

Another thing I don’t remember is what I wore to Zumba class. I didn’t have much of a wardrobe at the time, and I certainly wasn’t toting around exercise clothes. Maybe I still had the loose fitting pants I’d gotten free from a church clothing give-away in Mt. Shasta, CA? I honestly have no recollection.

We arrived at the location of the Zumba class. We lined up and paid our class fee. I don’t recall if we signed waivers saying we released any and everybody from liability if we dropped dead during the class. (No one dropped dead during the class.)

We went into the main room, the room where the class was held. It was a long, narrow room with mirrors lining one of the long walls. (Ugh! Mirrors!) There were three or maybe four long lines of women (I don’t remember any male students) facing the mirrors. Lou and I and Lou’s other friends stood in the last (or maybe the second to last) row. I tried to line up perfectly behind the woman standing ahead of me so I would not have to see my reflection in the mirror.

The instructor was a man. A young man. A young, effeminate man. I didn’t speak to this man, and I know nothing about his sexuality, but if I were going to slap a label on him (and that’s what I’m about to do), the label I’d give him is flamer. Every vibe I was getting from the young man triggered my gaydar.

I understand it’s also difficult to know anything about a person’s heritage just by looking at her, but I’ll tell you, Lou and I were the only gals I looked at in the class and thought white girl. I wasn’t bothered about being in the minority (I suppose we were all united in fitness, like in the Olympics), but I did notice I was adding a little diversity to the group.

Then the music started, and we were off. No introduction. No preliminaries. The music started, the instructor began instructing, and the students began…Zumba-ing.

Zumba was dance, but akin to the aerobics I did sporadically in the 80s. I guess aerobics was akin to dance too, but with more arm than foot motion.

The women who’d been to the class before definitely had the advantage of knowing the routine. There was no help for the newbies, no hint at what would come next. We were on our own. The instructor announced what to do NOW, but for anyone (me!) who didn’t know how to do what to do NOW, she (me!) was out of luck.

The other friends of Lou seemed to be struggling a bit, but at least they had their natural or (acquired) athleticism and grace to fall back on. Me? I had nothing.

I remember glancing over at Lou for a brief moment. She had a look of intense concentration on her face,but she also looked absolutely graceful, as if this experience was not entirely foreign to her. (She admitted on the way home that she’d been on her high school dance team. What? Dance team? I’d never pegged house-building, roller derby Lou as a dance team kind of gal. It’s amazing what we can still learn about people we’ve known for years.)

I may not have had the dance moves down, but I was totally enjoying the music. Unlike the aerobics we did in 6th grade PE, it wasn’t American Top 40 for this class. I don’t know what tidy category this music fit into, but it was fast and the lyrics were primarily in Spanish. This was the kind of music I wanted at trance dance.

I was trying to keep up, but I was on the wrong foot again. Then, when we spun, I went in the wrong direction. I was clumsy. I was a mess. I started feeling bad about myself. Why can’t I do this? I wondered. Why am I so useless? I longed for the experience to be over.

Then I realized no one there cared if I was on the wrong foot. No one cared if my spin was opposite every else’s. The women there for a workout were concentrating on their breathing and and burning calories and building muscle. Lou (good ol’ Lou!) has been my friend through worse than a clumsy exercise class. Lou’s other friends were not the catty girls from middle school PE, ready to make fun of my every misstep. And certainly the instructor wasn’t looking at me and judging.

So I decided to cut myself some slack and relax a little. I might have had a little bit of fun before the class was over. But I didn’t suggest a group Zumba excursion for the next week.

Trance Dance


Lou told me about trance dance not long after I pulled into  Austin.

It was held at a dance studio. The participants were blindfolded. There were a few people not blindfolded who made sure the dancers didn’t careen into the walls or each other. Music played. Dancing occurred.

Lou had never attended a trance dance, so she didn’t know if people actually achieved a trance state, but she thought I should go. I wanted us to go together, but the event only happened once while I was in town, and Lou already had plans that night. I’d either have to go alone or not go at all.

The $10 price of admission discouraged me. I’d rolled into Austin with maybe $10 in my pocket (and found a $10 bill in a letter from my friend Tea in New Mexico waiting for me at Lou’s house). By the night of trance dance, I’d picked up a few odd jobs (dog siting, house cleaning, a couple of psychology studies involving MRIs), so I had some money, but $10 was a significant amount for me at the time. I sent an email to the organizers asking for a discounted rate, but received no response.

This better be worth it, I thought on the appointed night.


I took this photo of my purple Grateful Dead bandana. I traded a hemp bracelet I’d made for this bandana on Furthur lot.

It was dark when I drove to the studio and almost missed the driveway. Once inside, I removed my shoes and readied my purple Grateful Dead bandana to use as a blindfold.

All of the participants (eight? a dozen? my memory is faulty, but surely no more than twenty) went into the large open room lined with mirrors.

Ugh, mirrors. Let’s just say I don not enjoy viewing myself in mirrors. I probably would have left had being blindfolded not been a main component of the evening.

We all covered our eyes, the music started, and we were off.

Dance as if no one’s watching, indeed.

(I tried to forget that at least a few people were watching, told myself they were only watching to make sure no one got hurt.)

I was wearing a long, loose, flowing, flowered skirt. I took great delight in feeling the fabric swirl around me as I twirled. I also enjoyed grabbing handfuls of the skirt in each hand and flipping it around my knees as I kicked my legs and stomped my feet.

The music was fine, but not what I would have picked. I would have picked the Grateful Dead, had I been dancing alone. If I were picking music for a group, I would have chosen music heavier on drums, faster rhythms, a bit more upbeat. But really, the music was fine. It wasn’t the type of dance music that makes me want to rush out and do speed (The Crystal Method, anyone?), and I suppose the tempo was plenty fast enough.

I don’t know how long we danced. An hour? An hour and a half? Certainly no more than two. While I’m not sure I was ever in a trance, it became difficult to stay aware of time. The music was continuous, no break to say, This song is over; now a new one will begin.

I did pretty much stop thinking about the other people there, stopped thinking about what they might be doing, what they might be thinking of what I was doing. The world shrank down to me, my body, the music, my movement. It’s unusual for me to be in the the moment and in my body, but during trance dance, I was in both.

When the music stopped, I felt both So soon? and Finally!

The whole group then sat in a circle on the floor and had a check-in so we could talk about our feelings and any issues that had come up. I can’t remember what I said, although I think I may have mentioned that I’d enjoyed dancing with my skirt.

Would I do trance dance again? Hell yes, even for $10. But I hope the next time, Lou can be there too.

According to http://www.gerrystarnes.com/trancedance.html,

Through a combination of focused intention, breathing, use of the bandanna and movement to rhythmic music, participants can experience a trance state and be transported into an alternate modality of awareness.

The first 30 minutes includes a discussion and orientation to Trance Dance, followed by an extended dance behind the bandanna. Following the dance, the group gathers in the circle for optional sharing and to get “plugged back in” before leaving.