i can’t dance.

not really.

not the way people expect a black woman to be able to dance.

i spend a lot of time in my head. is this moving right? is that? my legs are fine as long as they are acting alone, but throw in my arms, my hips, anything else and all of a sudden there is a cacophonous look about me. as if each part of me is listening to completely different music. my head bobs to country, my behind to pop, my legs to hip hop. not an all together treat.

my initially reaction is to run and hide. i avoid dancing like the plague.

but every now and then i venture out in an attempt to overcome this phobia i have. actually, i’m not sure if it is the phobia of looking stupid in public or a genuine attempt to learn some rhythm. either way it results in a few awkward hours of me trying to be something i’m not…

in college it was west african dance. i took a class from a woman named onye. onye looked like music when she moved. and despite my attempts to mimic her, i looked more like noise. no matter. i stuck with it and even performed in a big show that year.

of course there were tears and a column i penned titled, “black girls can’t dance”…but i digress.

i put the whole thing behind me and after that only danced while visiting other countries, or after a tequila or three, or when my swing dancing friends would spin and dip me with the sheer power of their own movements.

the other day my friend invited me to join him in a dance class. i laughed uproariously and declined. an actual dancer, he raised an eyebrow and commented on my seeming unwillingness to try new things, to stretch myself. i disagreed with his assessment but left him to undertake the class on his own.

in my defense, i do a lot of things that take me beyond my comfort zone. most big things i’ve done in life are done at least in part to that purpose. traveling to another country on my own…bungee jumping…doing the vagina monologues…

heck, i even signed up for a belly dancing class. somehow when i took it i didn’t think about the dancing aspect of it. it seemed somehow removed from the concept despite the name. and after my first class my assessment seemed accurate.

but today, after my second class, i saw the dancing side of things. i watched my teacher move sensuously in the mirrored walls and tried to copy. the basic shimmy came easy to me. the choreography that followed…less so. i could feel my anxiety rise, my face contorting, my voice edging up to my head where it chided me on not getting it right.

but i shimmied and stepped. and after class i asked for help. and i’ll go back…again and again…and again (since i bought several classes). and i’ll go as much for the workout as for the idea of not letting it beat me- again.

i think i’ll probably end up going to dance class with my friend too. in part at least, because i desire to feel the freedom of my body in motion without my mind micromanaging the movement.

who knows, maybe i’ll even learn to like it.

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