A few years ago, I took an exotic dance class. It was a fantastic workout, a lot of fun, and forced me to take some long, hard looks at myself both figuratively, and literally in the dance class mirrors. The instructor was a former ballerina, who, when she had grown to hate the dancing she had always loved, had taken an exotic dance class to try to rekindle her romance with movement. She was a great teacher and I wish I could remember her name. I’d hook you up with the recommendation.
One of the things I liked about the class was feeling safe that no one was going to laugh at me if I stumbled, couldn’t keep up, or was twice the size of the cutest girl there. So many people stay out of the gym, or out of the fitness world in general because they don’t feel like they can work out, stretch, or move their bodies outside of judgment and/or ridicule. It’s hard enough to go to a class by yourself, much less go to a class knowing you are going to be at a pre-beginner level, much less knowing you’re going to be the fat one. A good instructor, a good gym provides more than just a class or a treadmill: they provide security.
I got invited to a special dance class that was to be a buffet of styles. There was to be some exotic dance, some belly dance, and some Zumba. I am graceless, a beginner, and absolutely not thin, but I was in! I remembered how much I enjoyed my old class and hoped it would be something like that.
We got off to a good start. I was having a blast doing the chair routine along with the instructor*. He was positive, entertaining, and encouraging, and he had the perfect playlist going. I was stepping, and rolling, and shaking, and spreading, and shimmying, and swinging my hair, and laughing out loud with my friend because I was having so much fun. Then, it all came to a screeching halt for me.
First, I realized I was getting slinky to a Justin Bieber song** and wondered if that was illegal. That shook me out of my choreography chasing haze long enough to realize that two women (the owner of the studio, and a participant) had taken out their iPhones and were starting to video the class in motion. And I stopped in my tracks. “Oh, no thank you,” I said loudly. “I do not want to be on video.”
The owner laughed at me. I crossed the floor to the only space (right in front of the door) where I could continue to participate without ending up either in frame, or in frame with my reflection in the walls of mirrors. She criss-crossed me and started to video again from the other side of the room, where I would be clearly in frame. I said, loudly again, “I do not want to be on your video,” and I hustled back across the room into the corner behind the big fan, where I stayed until I could escape without showing up on some YouTube channel somewhere. I was livid.
On my way out, I stopped to tell the owner why I was leaving. She could not have cared less.
When I got in my car, I asked myself why I was upset. Was I insecure and upset because I was worried someone might think I looked bad? I think you’ve seen enough pictures of me to know the answer to that. Was I really just angry that it was unprofessional and bad form to video without permission? Well, yes, I was angry about that, but there was more. I was angry that my security had been breached***. I had trusted this studio owner to provide me with a safe place to be a sweaty, stumbling, blob in yoga pants, working her hardest to build and burn, and she had betrayed my trust with an iPhone.
I wish I’d had the time to suss that out before I made my declaration that she was unprofessional, rude, and had ruined my enjoyment because maybe that would have given her a reason to care. Maybe not. All I know is she lost a customer because I was having so much fun, I was absolutely planning to go back. Now? She can kiss my laser-cat-butt**** because we are never, ever getting back together.
*I will try to get his name for you because that’s another recommendation I’d like to give you.
**I am disgusted with myself at how much I liked that song. I blame the producers.
***Also, I worked in the entertainment industry long enough that I understand the importance of a release form. You don’t get me on camera without a release that tells me exactly what you plan to do with my image.
****This was my favorite move in the ballerina’s exotic dance class. You do this thing where you bend at the waist, sliding your hand from the tops of your thighs to your knees, then you move your hips in a circle. She taught us that we should think of how a cat looks with its tail held high, and try to get that going with our backsides. Then, we were to imagine we had a laser squeezed between our cheeks, and we were cutting a circle out of the wall behind us. Laser Cat Butt was my loving name for the move. Try it at home. The backs of your thighs will think you’ve gone mad.