Here goes nothing: nearly five years after quitting dance, I was back in the studio, stretching out my screaming calves before class began. I knew Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater for their gorgeous, modern melding of ballet and modern dance with African-American influences, and had seen Ailey II give a short but beautiful performance at a high school assembly, but I didn’t realize that The Ailey Extension offered open classes for mere mortals like me. After a week of considering their varied list of techniques — everything from Afro-Caribbean to Zumba— I finally decided on West African, a style I’d never tried before but had long been curious about.
It may not have been the gentlest way to reintroduce myself to dance. By the end of the warm up, I was dripping sweat. Then we moved from rolling our heads and stretching our hip flexors to the actual dancing, which also involved much head-rolling and hip-flexing. Our instructor, Yah’Ya, began by teaching us some basic steps, which we then put into a short sequence. After practicing the first sequence a few times, we began the next sequence. These short segments were then strung together to form a routine. After performing the routine a few times, we danced each sequence moving across the studio (instead of standing in place in front of the mirror), and then during the last few minutes of the class, the drumming sped up and we pushed ourselves to dance even faster.