Thursday, November 26, 2009

Learning to dance when you're 29: Harbour Dance

Today's Thursday.

Okay, it's American Thanksgiving for those of you in the US (and Happy Thanksgiving to you!), but here in Canada it's just a regular Thursday work day.

But for me, Thursday means dance class.

No, I don't have any dance experience.

No, I never danced as a kid. Not in a studio, anyway.

I danced as a toddler to my Mom's Michael Jackson records in 1982, but that was the extent of it. Even when Mom enrolled me in a 5 year old's jazz class, I withdrew on the first day as I refused to participate. I was too shy - too weirded out by all the other little girls in "funny looking" dance slippers and leotards. I was in my jogging suit. I didn't want to be one of them - a little girl in "funny looking" shoes.

And thus was beginning and the end of my dance career.

Even as I got older, I was too shy to dance. I pseudo-moshed at concerts and wall-flowered all my high school dances - preferring to express myself through guitar or artwork - but never through dance.

Not until my late teens I discovered that winning combination of alcohol and nightclubs. My self consciousness of dancing infront of strangers went out the window somehow. But even then, it had to be to the right song and with the right friends and after enough rum & cokes. And even then, my dancing was very limited.

But I was always told I had the body of a ballet dancer.
I just never pursued it.

And then when nightclubbing lost its luster, I started to sit in and watch TV. First it was So You Think You Can Dance? And then it was So You Think You Can Dance Canada.

And I was hooked!

And I thought, "hey, that looks like fun!"

Those shows exposed me to the whole world of dance beyond what I ever imagined. And all the genres: hip hop, jazz, modern, fox trot, ballroom, tango, contemporary, Broadway, salsa, ballet... just watching Mia Michaels choreography was awe-inspiring enough.

It was so inspiring that soon "Hey, that looks like fun" turned into "Hey, I want to do that!"

So I started to look around online to see where somebody like myself - an adult with zero dance experience - could find some basic intro dance classes. Classes which are tailored to adults who work full time, who might not want to commit long term or pay a small fortune.

And that's when I discovered Harbour Dance!

Located in the heart of downtown Vancouver on Granville Street across from the Vogue Theatre, Harbour Dance appeared to offer everything an aspiring adult beginner would want:

- a variety of dance styles
- a flexible schedule 7 days a week
- a variety of levels (including absolute beginner)
- a choice between single drop-in classes or progressive classes

And it was relatively affordable for my budget! The bonus was that it was close - I could walk there in 10 minutes from where I lived!

So in summer of 2007 I paid for my Harbour Dance membership which gave me a slightly cheaper price on classes.

I immediately took a drop-in intro Broadway Jazz class just to see how it was. I realized I was slightly in over my head with the high kicks, but the jazz hands I could muster.

I took another drop-in, Intro Jazz, and realized that it was more in tune with my experience. But it became really evident that I really needed a primer to go over the basics that I never learned as a child. I decided it would probably make sense to conquer what most would consider the most challenging form of dance:


In September and October of 2007 I enrolled in an adult's beginner intro ballet class. I bought my first-ever ballet slippers and Ballet for Dummies (a great investment). And so it was on every Sunday that I joined a class of predominantly women on the third floor of the dance studio. A pianist would play music as we struggled with our turnout, posture and technique.

Despite the initial struggles, ballet was very relaxing!

It was an hour and a half of stretching, pliƩing and balancing at the barre with the occasional movements across the floor. But does it ever prepare for you the basics of all other forms of dance!

(And no, you don't go en pointe until you've built about 3 years of strength and experience).

I soon decided to try other styles in addition to ballet. Because of Mia Michaels, I decided to attempt modern, so I'd join a Monday evening intro modern drop-in class for a while.

Intro Modern was something else, if not slightly new agey. It's a very free-form expressive dance where you'd spend a lot of intimate time on the floor, pushing yourself off the floor, rolling around on the floor, and so on. Sure, you might smell like feet at the end of the session, but we had our own drummer who'd beat in time to our dances and there was something so primal about it. A very satisfying feeling by the end of it.

Then somewhere along the line I got the bright idea to enroll myself in the Street Jazz course. After all, I figure if I could do Broadway Jazz and regular Jazz, why not Street Jazz?

What I didn't realize at the time that Street Jazz was essentially a fusion of Jazz and Hip Hop. My teenage self wouldn't have believed it. But while assuming I'd be out of my element, I actually felt more at home in this class than anywhere else. It was a workout: push-ups, sit-ups and extensive grooving. But did we ever move and build up a choreography repertoire!

Imagine an entire class of intro dancers learning the steps of a Janet Jackson video. Voila Street Jazz. And it's contagiously fun!

This month I'm enrolled in two progressive classes: intro Hip Hop and another intro Street Jazz. We're dancing to Pharell remixes and old school Tribe Called Quest. Needless to say, I'm having an absolute blast all while keeping fit and staying in shape.

So once again, today is Thursday.

Thursday is dance class.

Some people go to the gym.

I go to dance.


Colene said...

Go you! I think that's totally awesome that you're doing these dance classes (especially ballet!). I would feel so self conscious, despite the fact that it would be a beginner's class. I feel like I have two left feet.

Robyn said...

Thanks Colene! :)

But believe me, I felt the exact same way at first. At first I went with a friend and that was a nice way to break the ice, so to speak.

However, beginner's ballet is very easy. You often just start off with simple simple moves: one leg in, one leg out. One leg in, one leg out. One leg in... rise up on the balls of your feet. Okay, now down again. Repeat.

And everyone's in the same boat.

And the best part - no leotard. ;) You can wear sweats pants or yoga clothing if you want. If you ever want to try it, I can recommend it.