I took this hip hop class that totally mixed up my impressions of dancing. The teacher didn’t focus on the numbers, didn’t talk about the left or right side, didn’t warm up with routine steps. It was described in sound effects, the booms, the instruments, and images of where our bodies, arms, and legs moved and landed. At first it was completely chaotic in my mind, I couldn’t keep up, I was spinning around trying to figure out what all my body parts were doing. Then he added the music, and we were going three times faster. I couldn’t keep up, I just tried to focus on these places where I could land on the beat with everyone else. I heard everyone talking back and forth, and it was like a different language, giving impressions of where the dance was going. Even with my disappointment, the teacher kept giving me a pat on the shoulder as he passed by to turn on and off the music. “I see you.” he kept reminding me. Then we all danced together, and several times later, we were all celebrating this feat of learning all these moves in less than an hour.
It reminded me of the first time I drove with a friend who learned to drive in a different geography. I grew up with a place with a grid: like 1st, 2nd, and 3rd streets; avenues A, B, and C. You gave directions like, “turn left on 54th street, turn right on avenue Q, and then your destination is on the southwest corner of 64th street and avenue Q.” This was completely foreign to my friend. Where the roads are windy and not named in sequence, you relied less on names and more on landmarks. “Turn left at the red brick house, then turn right at the big oak tree, go over the hill, and then it’s the big white house on the left.”
I’m really curious about this more descriptive, less linear approach to communication and life. It feels so colorful and intuitive, and it’s a step outside of my comfort zone. Thinking about that experience in the hip hop dance class, though, though I felt alienated at times, I simply felt so alive amidst the chaos, then so surprised and happy when we danced together.