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Mary El from the Block

Oct 13, 2010

Remember when I said a local dance studio wanted me to come take a class and blog about it?  It's okay, I almost forgot too.  After all, it was three months ago. 

Don't get me wrong, I was flattered by the offer.  The thing is, I'm terribly uncoordinated.  No no.  You don't understand.  I took ballet in college as an elective and the instructor gave me an F.  (I think that's pretty mean, don't you?) 

I blame my lack of coordination on two childhood events:

1) When I was five I missed my first jazz recital because we were going to visit my grandparents.  I went to the dress rehearsal and I watched, pouting from under a table, as all the other little girls flailed their hands and skipped around the room in their sparkly blue and gold tutus and white tights.  The teacher invited me to join them, but I didn't see the point.  Plus I was wearing pink and purple sweats -- didn't really go with the costumes. 

2) When I was six I was taking gymnastics, but my grandmother demanded my mother take me out of it when she came to watch me on a visit.  She said it was too dangerous for me to be doing somersaults on a balance beam six inches off the ground. 

Without the dance foundation, I didn't have a fighting chance of coordination later on in life.  This was further exacerbated in the fifth grade when I was recruited to the girls' basketball team because I was taller than everyone (except for the six foot wonder, Katie).  Let's just say I played really good defense. (I did get possession of the ball one time, but I was so shocked someone would pass it to me I froze then threw it at the closest goal. Not the right goal, mind you. I was not asked back the next year.)

I tried to explain this to Gwo, the dance instructor who invited me to take a class at DC Dance Collective.  I told him I was going to look like a fool.  He said it would make for a better blog.

Fine.  Bring my blog into it, why dontcha.  I can't resist an opportunity to embarrass myself and write about it.  So we decided I would go to his hip hop class. 

"You can stay for popping if you want," he told me.  Hahahahahaha!  Can you imagine?

I showed up to the studio one recent Wednesday night, unsure if my outfit was okay.  I had on a pink t-shirt with gray capris and my Nikes (gotta get some kind of use out of them since my June ankle sprain).  As I expected, everyone there dressed cooler than me.  This is what I was up against:

1)      Redheaded Belly Dancer
2)      “Dance Camp” T-shirt Hot Blonde
3)      Amanda from ANTM (actually a GW student, but very intimidating, all skinny and pretty)
4)      Cammo Cargo Pants Hardcore Girl
5)      Latina Amazingness
6)      Giggly Korean Who Got Out of Everything by Giggling

Gwo split us up into pairs, and bless his heart he let me pair up with him.  As he taught us the routine I was amazed with how well I picked up on the steps.  Either he gave us really easy steps, or I am not as bad as I think.  Or maybe I am terrible and was kidding myself.  At any rate, it was actually a lot of fun and by the end of the hour I wanted to high five all the girls because we’d done such a good job!  Of course I didn’t dare, but at least I wasn’t terrified of everyone in there.

I gathered my things and thanked Gwo as I headed toward the door, when he stopped me and said, “You should stay for popping!”

Horror washed over me.  I looked around.  All the other girls were staying for popping.  Gwo smiled and I thought, These girls aren’t as scary as I originally thought – I can do this.

Gwo explained popping is all about isolating muscle groups.  There was my first problem.  I attempted to have muscle groups this spring with running, and my legs were looking somewhat toned when I sprained my ankle and gave up exercising altogether.  I have a mother belly because the abs gave up on me long ago.  And the bat wings have settled in for winter.  So when  you talk about muscle groups and me in the same sentence, it’s time to move on to the next subject.

Alas, after a few simple instructions, we were required to freestyle it in a circle for all to see.  Belly Dancer popped her hips and belly. Dance Camp Hottie looked like a pro (I’m guessing she practiced this summer, right next to the Band Campers).  Amanda wasn’t wonderful but I wouldn’t dare think anything less because she still kind of scared me.  Cammo Cargos obviously knew what she was doing.  Latina Amazingness didn’t pop necessarily but still looked really good.  And Giggly Korean crept into the circle, giggled, and scurried out. 

Now try, dear readers, to imagine me popping.  If in your mind it looks at all like it did in the above video, then try again.  I looked more like a handicapped mime having a seizure.

I was relieved at the end of class when Gwo assured us popping wasn’t for everyone.  Whether he was talking to just me or making a blanket statement doesn’t matter.  He let me off the hook and I went home not feeling like I deserved an F.  Oh no, I got an A for Effort all the way. 

I went to bed kind of excited to have been in a dance studio again, and I fell asleep running the hip hop routine through my head. 

The next evening I was walking down U Street and saw my friend Liz.  She was talking to a cute guy, and by their body language I figured they were in the early stages of dating. 

“Hey lady!” Liz said to me as I approached.  “How’d your class go?”

“Not as bad as expected!” I told her, smiling politely at her gentleman friend.

“Show us what you learned!” she said, after introducing me to her boy.

So right there on the sidewalk I broke out my mad skillz.  Except for some reason they didn’t work as well without the music.  Yes.  That is definitely the reason I didn’t look like Jennifer Lopez.

After my impromptu performance I said good night so the lovebirds could get back to flirting.

Twenty minutes later Liz texted me: “My friend thought you were hilarious! He’s single…interested?”

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh help. 


  1. Fun! I'd love to take a hip hop class again. I'm not the best either, but it's really fun. But a popping class? I think I'd skip that. I can't even imagine what I'd look like. That's interesting that Amanda from ANTM was there. I remember her on the show and I don't remember her being the most coordinated. But what do I know.

    Definitely go out with cute guy! He should ask you to go dancing :)

  2. That? is awesome. What shall you do?!?!!

    And I fully expect a "popping" exercise at work tomorrow. I'll take a lesson from you!

  3. Great entry Mary El :) It really captures the night well. Thanks for writing it. You weren't nearly as awkward looking as you might believe. Actually I thought you did well.

    Here's a link to some of my popping if you're readers are curious.

  4. @Sam Not the real Amanda, just a lookalike. :) Hip hop was so fun! Glad you've tried it too!

    @Stefanie I danced for my boss to the right of me the day after the class, you missed a GREAT performance, haha.

    @Gwo Thanks for having me! And thanks for saying I did well! I honestly left feeling not that stupid, and that's saying a lot.