I always considered myself a decent dancer. I have a sense of rhythm. I get my share of compliments when I dance free-form. While not a hard-core athlete, I've committed fair swaths of time in my life to gymnastics, ballet, capoeira, tai chi (Yang and Chen styles), rock-climbing and just plain working out (cardio and weight-bearing exercise). I'm rarely afraid to get on the floor at any nightclub, with the exception of Ruby Tuesday's, a hip-hop club here in London that a lot of breakdancers go to. This probably should have told me something.
I arrived about half an hour before the class was supposed to start and paid the £4 daily membership fee. (Before 5 pm, it's £2.) The number of people in the reception area and the changing rooms overwhelmed me at first. From what the instructor said later about her class schedule, I'd assume it's that way more or less all the time except during the day and on Monday evenings. I wandered around for a bit, peering into the studios to watch classes and felt slightly relieved, as it didn't seem that many of those were full. I didn't take into account, though, that those were intermediate and advanced level classes.
The instructor started the class by collecting the fee (£6), which took about five minutes because the class size was completely uncontrolled. There must have been fifty or sixty people packed into the 20'x15' room. There really wasn't enough space for that many "beginners," especially since the studio doesn't provide lockers. Everyone left their backpacks and coats lying around the edges of the studio, which reduced the usable area of the room even further. I admit, I resented the use of that amount of class time for collection of dues since it was only an hour long anyway. She whipped us through a five-minute warm-up and then taught us a four 8-count dance routine in forty minutes.
I put beginners in quotation marks earlier because, while forty minutes might be enough for people with a background in dance to learn so short a routine (and they did, which was intimidating to the actual beginners), it is not appropriate for the absolute beginner at all. I learned all the moves – I can still remember the entire routine – but I could not do them at the speed required to match the beat of even the slowest music that she used. She also confused the class more than once by telling us to start from one place in the routine and then actually demonstrating it from another. A significant percentage of students were falling over one another because of the lack of space and their inability to keep up. Although I was relieved to be more coordinated than that, it was still pretty frustrating.
If my inability to keep up weren't already humiliating enough, I felt, for the first time in my life, pretty goddamn ancient in this class. I was twice as old as the youngest of the attendees and probably a good five to ten years older than the majority. I don't want to let that deter me. Most people seem to guesstimate me at about five years younger than I am anyway.
I doubt I'd take the same class again. I might go back on a quieter night to try a different class, but overall I was not terribly impressed. It was expensive, it was much too crowded and it was badly paced (for me, anyway). My quest for a new hobby continues.