“Don’t worry. The beat will get embedded in your heart,” my Bollywood instructor reassured us.
We’d just had an intense, whirlwind introduction to the new dance we’d be learning, and we must have looked a little unsure of ourselves.
Dance is not one of those arts that comes naturally to me. It’s always made me a little uncomfortable, which probably stems from leftover high school insecurities about looking stupid in public. Or maybe it’s the fact that most dance styles are highly gendered (as in, there’s the ‘man’ role, the ‘woman’ role. Men lead, women shake their hips, yada yada, gender binary.)
My opinion starting changing in undergrad, when I began going to dance parties (not clubs– dance parties) and everyone just kind of accepted that they looked stupid. Dance became less about looking good and adhering to gender norms. In this context, it was about having fun.
But that was all very unofficial and unstructured. It was dance re-appropriated, on our own terms. There were no steps, no rules, no expectations.
Dance classes were an entirely different matter. They still scared me.
New cities and new nagging interests
This all changed on June 5, 2011, when Chris invited DJ Prashant to give us WDS‘ers an impromptu Bollywood dance lesson. Suddenly I found myself “caressing my hair to the right”, doing the “disco”, and “namaste”-ing to the soundtrack of Slumdog Millionaire. This shit was fun.
And in that moment, I had an idea. I turned to my new friend Jason and announced that I was going to start taking Bollywood dance classes here in Portland. Bollywood seemed like a good bridge into dance– far less intimidating than say, Argentine Tango.
Plus, one of my big goals for my move to Portland was/is to push myself to be more social and try new things. And so, in addition to starting the Portland Clue League and getting back into the violin, I began taking Bollywood dance classes.
It’s been 2 months so far, and I love it.
Using new interests to overcome old insecurities
Since starting the weekly classes, I’ve become more comfortable with dance as a whole. I may even start exploring some other styles.
And in regard to the whole gendered thing, Bollywood dance is certainly not unisex. There are girl moves and boy moves. But that’s okay. Actually, there’s something kind of fun about shaking my hips and “throwing my earrings”. It’s all quite playful.
Bollywood seems to be more about having fun than looking good. Maybe that’s what all dance is (or should be) about. It just never felt that way– till now.
Has there ever been a new interest that called out to you– nagged at you, but you were afraid to try? Did you give it a shot anyway?