Joe Kind: A Guy
There I was, in a room full of mirrors. I had known this feeling of fear was inevitable, and yet I still wasn’t totally prepared for what was to come.
No, I wasn’t in a haunted house. I don’t go inside haunted houses as a matter of principle.
I was in a hip-hop dance class.
The class is conveniently and accurately titled “Hip Hop Hustle.”
“Burn up the dance floor and burn calories, too!” the class description reads. “There is something for those who have never danced outside of their bedroom as well as the more experienced.”
I am sure you can guess where I fall on that spectrum.
As intrigued as I was to learn some new moves to some of my favorite songs, I refused to even consider taking the class alone. I begged several of my friends to sign up for the class with me. Even on group messaging apps, I was relentless in haranguing people to join me in my questionably athletic pursuit. It didn’t matter that my messages received zero likes and were only met with jokes or some other form of sarcasm like “wut.” or “how much hustle vs. hip hop is taught?” When I approached these rude thumbs in person, I failed to disguise my inner torturous salesman. I was convinced that this dance class would be fun and silly and kind of a good workout, but that I could not and would not go at it alone.
I had signed up for yoga classes in the winter and had enjoyed going to those classes when I could. For my last quarter on campus, I wanted to continue to push myself outside of my athletic comfort zone. The highlights of my senior year thus far have come from the things I would have never allowed myself to do during my first three years here. So why not continue in that same spirit, lest the old traditions fail?
I finally found one friend I could persuade, somehow. We had a final chat over the phone about an hour before the class we were planning to attend. All of the concerns with online registration were ignored. Our first and only goal was to just show up to the class, to see how we liked it, and if we hated it, to vow to never show up again. There was nowhere online indicating this was even a possibility, but we were seniors, and we thought we might as well.
We changed into our athletic attire and arrived 15 minutes before the start of class. The room was empty, save for a rack of hand weights and some other clutter in the back. The lights were on and the wall of mirrors was staring at us. I can only imagine what those mirrors were thinking: “Who is this sick bro, and is that his girlfiend?”
I stared at myself incredulously. I thought back to my CrossFit classes at home and in Argentina, both explicitly lacking mirrors. Mirrors were distractions to the workout, I was told.
Before my last class in Argentina, I bought a commemorative shirt with some of my last pesos that said, “Gyms use machines, we build them.”
He must be so “whipped,” the mirrors said to me.
A few others strolled in to class, some having just gone on runs. My friend recognized some of her friends. I quickly realized that I would be the only male in the class that day.
Arriving in yoga pants and high-top converse, the instructor promptly began the class with a warm-up routine, syncopated nicely with hip-hop beats I did not recognize. We rolled our heads and upper bodies to the beat. We stretched out our legs, which would thank us later. I looked back at my friend and could not contain my nervousness.
The class continued, and my hesitations began to manifest themselves into loud and awkward chuckles. The only way I seemed to be able to get through this disaster is through laughs, hands trying to hide my craning mouth as if I was yawning in class. I meant no disrespect.
The class quickly went over the choreography taught last week to Beyoncé’s “Formation” before moving on to some Missy Elliot. I spent the next hour flailing my arms and legs in hopes that I was actually learning something. Eventually, we got into sexy moves, which I knew was inevitable. The apprehensions really kicked in then. My nervous giggles became loud laughs. My hands, again, tried to hide it as if I were yawning in front of a professor, even though I meant no disrespect.
Flash forward four weeks later. Laughs still abound in my dance class, though not without the rest of the class. I have found myself sweating more in the class, a sign of my ascension up the learning curve. We have danced to new songs by Chris Brown and Lil Mama, current chart-topper Dawin, as well as to middle-school throwbacks jams by Usher and Kelis. Simple bodily thrusts have transformed into all-out twerks and cranks. Last week, without my friend’s comforting presence, I was introduced to “floor work,” involving a kind of forward crawl, like a sensual and slithering snake. A simple Kelis lyric, from her iconic “Milkshake,” suddenly takes on a new meaning.
The mirrors are surely watching in awe.