If last year taught us anything at all, it was that young America is firmly in a dance-craze phase that hasn't been seen since kids were doing the mashed potato.
In Atlanta, they did the “motorcycle dance,” and in Harlem they did the “chicken noodle soup” (with a soda on the side, they hastened to add). Someone in Africa even invented a dance called the “bird flu,” and in viral fashion, it got picked up as far as Florida and the Eastern Seaboard. Luckily, it didn't become quite a pandemic, though it sure is fun to watch teenagers putting their own spin on it, posting their bug-eyed and avian-necked interpretations up on YouTube.
The kids are all right, and they're also on to something. Working some form of dance into the personal itinerary can build a better you for all of the obvious reasons, and for some that are possibly less so.
A body at rest will stop at almost nothing to stay at rest: That's the celebrated axiom of the lazy, the contented, and the overfed (otherwise lovingly known as “my people”). But the body at rest has infinitely fewer opportunities than the body in motion mentally, physically, and — most important, so pay attention — socially.
Not that a dance class is an instant ticket to finding a new significant other (for those who might be in the market), though stranger things have happened after gazing into a former stranger's eyes across an uncrowded dance floor for even just a little while. But people always tend to think more about the immediate physical benefits of dancing before they think of the social, benefits not necessarily generated by a trip to the gym.
Too abstract? Think of it this way: If you feel more alive, open, comfortable, and present in your own body (all great boons from dancing), that's going to rub off onto the way you relate with others in the long run. If only we could enroll some of our so-called world leaders into one of the myriad fantastic Bollywood dance lessons that appear to be plentiful about 40 miles away in the South Bay but sadly lacking in San Francisco, save for the occasional workshop from San Jose's hip Naach company, (408) 573-6908, there might be a lot more harmony on this planet. And we wouldn't care if it's sequined or choreographed, either. On second thought, we'd like to see the sequins, for sure.
This all sounds fine and dandy, but is it truly a realistic proposition to make time amid one's busy schedule to regularly attend a dance class? Those of you who quickly answered in the negative, or got unpleasant flashbacks to dreaded childhood ballet lessons, keep reading, because many studios cater to the noncommittal with one-night offerings and drop-in classes at beginner levels. In fact, it might be easier and much more fun for a newbie dancer to try several different drop-ins before making what could be a triple-digit monetary investment.
Burlesque to Tango to Squares
One sexy lady to drop in on is Bombshell Betty, the mistress of Burlesquercise. ($20 gets you a peek, also known as one class.) Hers is a fun twist on what might sound like a played-out genre (burlesque or stripper aerobics) because her tongue is more firmly in cheek, and the exercise is more in the foreground than the bump-and-grind. Her classes take place at two different S.F. dance studios (Here Here Studio and Studio Gracia); sign up on her Web site (www.burlesquercise.com). She offers pinup modeling workshops if the dance classes aren't enough. Her DVD is called Intro to Burlesquercise, should this all sound terribly enticing but possibly too embarrassing to do in public.
To demonstrate what breadth and range we've got in town, try the opposite end of the spectrum: Cutting a rug with the SF Caper Cutters Square Dancing Club. The 55-year-old organization offers beginner square dancing classes only once every three years, and 2007 is our year. Classes (only $5) started Jan. 23 at St. Paul's Presbyterian Church in the Sunset District and continue through September (www.sfsquaredancing.org).
Maybe spinning on your head sounds better. Or spinning on your head while you watch children learning to be clowns. If that sounds like fun, find it at Acrosports in the Sunset, which offers adults instruction in body-moving arts like breakdancing, capoeira, and gymnastic tumbling. Be careful when doing the “worm,” though, because you aren't 15 anymore, and you'll feel it in the morning (665-2276).
Wednesdays are CELLSpace alternative Milonga nights, where beginners may not only learn the intricacies of the tango in a “politically neutral” environment, but they don't have to be all Arthur Murray about it; these are rockin' jams with live DJs (www.organictangosf.info).
Those looking to mix their dance with a cocktail and actually learn something in the process have an amazing option. On the third Saturday of every month, the club night “Non-Stop Bhangra” shakes up the music/party lounge Rickshaw Stop with cutting-edge South Asian dance music. Choreographer Vicki Virk of Dholrhythms kicks off the evenings with dance instruction for everyone (www. nonstopbhangra.com).
OK, now here's the real beauty part, if it's not already crystal clear. This is San Francisco after all, one of the most creative places anywhere. (Heck, the official city motto is “Only in San Francisco.”) And that translates into some pretty entertaining choices. If you can dream it up in your head, there's a safe bet that someone's already putting it out on the dance floor and offering to teach other people how to do it, too. Consult Google with your wildest concoctions, and you might actually find something along the right lines.
Just as long as you get that body moving, it will yield something positive. And remember, no one said you had to stick to the same groove. Get up and, well, you know, this year.