Friday, December 24, 2004

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This is probably the point where I should give an update on my dance class.

Overall, I'm extremely happy with the experience so far. We've had five classes, of which I've made it to three and a half. The instructors are a Chinese man and woman, both extremely good dancers to my untrained eye. The class is about 40-50 students, which at two instructors and 90 minutes means that you will probably receive personal instruction for about 30 seconds each class. The space is small, and sometimes it's hard to see the instructors around the other dancers. But that also makes the atmosphere cozy and encourages interaction between the dancers. The typical class runs for about and hour and fifteen minutes of instruction and following the teacher to music, and then there is about fifteen minutes plus overflow time of paired dancing. The class officially ends at 8:30, but Ms Chen, her friend and I end up staying till 9 PM just dancing for fun.

The first class was discouraging. It made me realize how long it has been since I've done any real kinetic learning. Probably the last time I had to learn some coordinated activity was ping-pong at Caltech, or being more rigorous it would be learning to play volleyball in junior high. And if you want to talk about dancing, I've never had any dance experience in my life (that I can remember... Mom, help me out?). So the first day, I felt like I had two left feet, my arms didn't know where to go, and I was being left behind by the more advanced students who just came off of learning the rumba. Very discouraging, but pretty much what I expected.

The second class was a big left for my spirits. I felt like my body actually remembered what I had learned the week before. Once the hips started moving, everything else followed. By the end of class, when it came time to pair up and string all the moves together, I felt like I had mastered a new and simple talent. Wearing my new black leather dance shoes, I was a happy man.

I missed the third session due to a business trip Hangzhou.

The fourth class pushed me hard again, and left me gasping for air. Like I told one of my dance partners, it's not the basic steps that are hard to master, it's the stringing them all together that keeps me tripping over her feet.

The fifth class was tonight. The Melody teachers had a Christmas dinner tonight after work at our department leader's nice apartment, and I felt like putting in an appearance but ended up staying for dinner. This made me about an hour late to dance class; it turns out I didn't miss much because the female teacher 徐老师, Mrs Xu, was absent, and the guy is not a great teacher, so they spent the whole time reviewing. In total I still got an hour of dance time, and it was particularly enjoyable because this was the first class where I actually danced with more than a couple partners. It was fun to feel a few different styles and skill levels of dancing, it gave me a better sense of how to improve my own style. The instructor also mixed things up by playing some songs with a faster beat, which was nice because it gives you less time to think about what you're doing next, and forces you to rely on instict or physical memory to lead into the next step. Although I didn't learn anything new tonight, I feel like I improved on a few key transitions and tightened up some moves, particularly in the upper body department.

One of the coolest things about the class is meeting people. Mrs Xu has a great eye for detail, and has spent several minutes after class with me on a couple occasions working out a trouble spot. A lot of the students have been dancing for a while and are very confident in their dancing, and also very friendly towards the newbs (that's me!). A few people are organizing an evening trip on the 25th to Shanghai's man-made ski slope. Also, a few of us are talking about going out and dancing on a Latin dance night at one of Shanghai's many night-time hotspots. A little scary, but fun!

On a totally seperate note, I'm thinking about trying to catch the final night of this theatrical performance 单身公寓 on Christmas day, Sunday, at 7:15pm. If anybody in Shanghai is interested in going with, give me a ring at 136-3664-4690.

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