Being at the gym as much as I am, I couldn’t help but notice our universal embrace of routine. Ever notice how people choose the same spin bike or spot in a group class and behave as if it belongs to them? I guess that human beings crave the ritual of routine. I am not immune to this phenomenon. I will set my alarm for 4:00 am just to be able to reserve my favorite spin bike #29 in the back row where I feel most comfortable. I’ve overheard and even marginally participated in some how dare someone else reserve my bike conversations. It’s pretty comical to get so upset over which bike you ride at 6:00 am. I’ve learned to focus on just enjoying the experience of exercise rather than trying to arrange everything according to my plan.
Nowhere is this played out more dramatically than in TM class. Those who feel they deserve the front row stake out their spots out and would will them to their next of kin if possible. I once witnessed a cat fight between two women who were struggling over front row turf next to Omar. I must admit to being a second row devotee and for having a preferred spot at a diagonal to him. It is true that one works more efficiently off his energy and this can make a better class experience. Once I voluntarily moved to another spot and struggled for the first half to find my rhythm. It was definitely harder to work in Siberia but there was an unexpected benefit. I found that I was relying on him less and on myself more. Although I was thrown off somewhat by some slackers around me, it made me focus more on leading myself rather than following him. It was a humbling experience but one which I resolved to try more often.
One aspect that I like about dance class is how the instructor will often challenge us. Tweetie moves the front row to the back about mid class. There are the inevitable grumblings as the slower learners panic. In dance class, I like to be near the front, better to watch the moves, so being in the back becomes harder for me. Once the combination has been learned, some teachers make you face each other to dance without the benefit of the mirror. This is actually very difficult because we rely on watching ourselves. Without the mirror we have to trust the instincts of our body and feel the movements from muscle memory.
This topic brings to mind my days in jazz dance class years ago with the great Luigi, aka, The Innovator. I think he would have liked The Porcupine aka The Titan. Luigi not only had talent but perseverance. After a near fatal car accident at the beginning of his dance career in Hollywood, when he was told that he would never walk again, he decided to embrace the motto “Never stop moving” and he never did. He created his own stretching exercises to rehabilitate his broken body with the thought to “always put the body in the right position and “to “feel from the inside out.” Despite some paralysis, he was able to dance again thanks to the exercises he created. Soon other dancers noticed the benefits of his stretching routine and he began to teach it to others.
“A good teacher knows how to prevent injuries,” Luigi says. He stresses the importance of using the body properly, telling students to “Take your time – feel what you’re doing.” He also says, “If you keep doing things right long enough, they’ll get better right. But, if you keep doing things wrong long enough, they’ll feel right — wrong.”
Thanks to my education courses at Hunter, I have come to understand what kind of learner I am — a slow one! I have accepted that I learn slowly because I like to learn well. In the end, this permits me to master a skill because I have to work so hard at it. A memorable moment occurred years ago when Luigi turned to me and said “We have to find someone for you to dance with.” Luigi – I am still looking for that someone but have never forgotten that you saw a dancer in me.
I also remember when Luigi abruptly turned to the class and asked “where is center stage”? Everyone automatically pointed to the center of the room. “No,” he replied. “Center stage is always where you are dancing.” I have never forgotten the advice to dance like you deserve to be center stage. I’ve been known to shake some booty in TM class like no one is watching. In the end, it shouldn’t matter where we stand in class. Sorry Porcupine but where I’m at is center stage!