Ever since I was a small child, I desperately wanted to pursue a hobby. I always wanted to learn dancing and music. However, there were many obstacles to this dream, like no one being able to drop me or pick me up from these lessons since both my parents were working and we didn’t have a driver. Finally, when I turned 12, a friend in my school bus told me about the dance class that she had been attending. Because she lived close to my house, I thought it would be a good idea to go with her as we could carpool, hence solving the transportation issue. This was a dance class at Ashley Lobo’s company, Danceworx.
At my first class, they taught us a jazz walk. My instructor’s name was Ana and she was always smiling. I also learnt the first step of each month’s jazz routine- feet wide apart and parallel, with arms out (not flabby, but sharp like razors) ,one shoulder back, chest out, chin up and a facial expression filled with attitude.
These classes were interesting. Very different indeed from what a regular dance class would be like, in my imagination. We were asked and taught to have a lot of attitude, be sexy and look sharp. During those days, I didn’t feel too fat or have any body image issues, but it definitely didn’t kill to look and feel sexier. The instructors asked us to stare into the mirror at ourselves, look at each other with attitude and dance with that look on our face. They made the class all about the feeling, vibe and emotions, rather than mere steps. We often yelled out with thug looks “A for attitude”.What was really brilliant was that there were people of all shapes, sizes and ages present in the class. Even the people who could be considered “Fat” would dance with a ton of attitude and style.
I loved going there. Every single class was like a personality development workshop for me. I’d come out more feeling more confident, loving myself, my body and wanting to approach people I was earlier intimidated by. My body language, how I walked, talked, dressed, everything soon changed. My school friends even after 6 years tease me about how I used to walk out of my desk in class at school doing a jazz walk as if I were on stage.
I could not only wear short or “revealing” clothes in class that I couldn’t otherwise at home or outside, but I felt more confident than ever while wearing them. My dressing sense, looking at so many young women (older than me) really improved. I became more stylish, “funky” and started exploring different types of fashion. I was in awe of my dance instructors, especially Ana. They were all so kind, humble, and happy when they danced.
I also made a lot of new friends from different schools, ages and backgrounds at the studio. Had I not been to these dance classes, I would’ve never had the confidence that attracted male attention and the “ask outs” that followed the next few years.
While dancing, I experienced flow. I loved the feeling of being immersed in the music and the movement of my body. I found that through my emotions and will, I could perform 100 times better. There was one particular month, when I became obsessed with Michael Jackson- his music as well as his moves. I’d listen to In the Closet, Beat it, Dangerous, Dirty Diana, Billy Jean all day and all night. I’d transpose the routines I had learnt in class on his music when at home. I also wrote a poem appreciating him and his talent on my facebook notes.
Dancing also exposed me to different genres and styles of music. It taught me to look at music in a different way. For example, I could feel and understand the beats, chorus, dynamics of songs much better. Apart from playing pop or hip-hop songs in the studio, they sometimes also played Santana and Queen, at least during our warm-up sessions. Being a huge fan of classic rock, I’d consider myself very lucky every time they did so. The studio also introduced me to varying genres, like downtempo (since they played a lot of Pretty Lights and Tosca) and 80s hip-hop (C&C Music factory, Vanilla Ice).
Not only that, I felt like I finally had a passion and purpose in life. The feeling of knowing that you really love and enjoy something empowered me. I knew I could turn to dancing every time I felt low. This made me feel safe and cling to my classes even more. I even secretly judged people who made excuses for missing classes, or came to class just for the sake of it.
I struggled quite a bit to continue going for my classes. I had to always look for someone to car-pool with. Finding people who lived close-by and who were okay with me depending on them to attend class was very tough. They had to bear with the disappointment I had in my voice every time they had some other commitment and couldn’t make it to class or were taking some different route while coming from somewhere else. I often even had to lie to my parents about coming with someone when I was actually taking an auto back (I only did this after I was 14).
I enjoyed dancing so much, that I often even considered taking it up professionally. Either way, I swore to never leave my dance classes, for they were so much fun and taught me so much. I didn’t want to lose further scope of transforming and growing. I didn’t want this to become just “one of those hobbies people get over when they grow up”. I could do anything to preserve this passion of mine. It was my “secret shifter”. It elevated my mood and helped me attract so many of my desires.
I wanted to take my passion forward, for example do the probationing program that required me to do 50 hours a month, and train to become an instructor myself. But again, issues like transport and my parent’s disapproval came in the way. They wanted me to focus on getting better grades at school. This is also the post U.S time when I was going through several different issues in my personal and school life.
Due to further developments in the next few years, I ended up losing my passion for dance, which was very painful because I felt like I was losing a part of my self. You can read about that phase here.