My new life as a 40-year-old ballerina started on Instagram. A couple of times a month, I would see friends posting videos from a dance class called Moves. It looked like Kate Bush had choreographed a ’90s R&B video set to an esoteric Britney Spears remix.
I wanted to go but always found an excuse not to. I hadn’t taken a dance class since the George H.W. Bush administration.
Besides, social dancing — at a wedding or a club, say — can be terrifying. A few years ago, many hours (and glasses of Champagne) deep into a wedding reception, I saw my reflection in a mirror while dancing and was horrified at my lack of rhythm and grace.
But choreography is a different beast entirely. Having someone tell me how to move seemed alluring enough to get over my anxiety and go to a class.
So I showed up at Moves one Thursday night. The class is taught roughly every other week, currently at Gibney, a dance center in TriBeCa that feels a bit like being in “Fame” and draws a crowd of several dozen, made up of mostly women and some very game men.
The class schedule is found via the Instagrams of its founders, Marisa Competello and Lauren Gerrie. They’re former professional dancers with cool day jobs: Ms. Competello is the founder of MetaFlora, a floral design company, and Ms. Gerrie is a chef and a founder of the catering company BigLittle Get Together. Both wear black leotards with aplomb.
Class begins with a warm-up that feels a little like an aerobics class. Then everyone dances across the floor in twos, following along to sashays or purposeful struts. That takes about half an hour. Then comes choreography, this time to a remix of “Desperado” by Rihanna.
Choreography, as something that isn’t normally part of my life, is incredibly hard to remember and appears to use a part of my brain that has gone dormant. It took so much concentration that I couldn’t think of anything else, which was liberating.
The hardest parts to get right were the subtle moves: the steps forward and back. Swinging my legs or flipping my hair as I rose from the floor was much easier. I could begin to see that some people moved with the confidence of professional dancers and others seemed even more awkward than me.
The last half-hour was devoted to splitting off into groups and performing the combination a few times, then together as a class. “Inclusive” is an overused word these days, but it’s the best way to describe the feeling of the class. It felt low stakes in a joyous way. If the worst thing that happened was that you forgot a sequence, it was of no consequence.
The class ended at 10 p.m., and I was so charged with adrenaline that I couldn’t get to sleep until long after midnight. I wanted more.
So I went to Ballet1, an all-levels ballet-based movement class. Its founder is Eva Alt, a former dancer with the Boston Ballet Company and BalletMet who is now the social media editor of Glossier. After she quit dancing professionally five years ago, she struggled to find a class that was less about technique and more about community and having a good time. She found it, as I did, at Moves, and started Ballet1 in April 2018.
On a cold February night, also at Gibney in TriBeCa, there were about 30 dancers at Ballet1, some dressed in leotards and ballet slippers, others in basketball shorts or leggings and socks. We began at the barre with traditional warm-up combinations of pliés and tendus and stretches. Then we went to the back of the room to practice, in sets of two, follow-along movements like balletic running and leaps.
For the second half of the class, Ms. Alt encouraged us to put sneakers on for the piece she had choreographed. “I like the sounds they make,” she said, pounding her Nike-clad foot to “Les Filles Désir” by Vendredi sur Mer.
She demonstrated turns and strides alongside another dancer, Emily Rose, a lithe redhead who danced with Ms. Alt in Boston and is studying at Columbia. We performed the choreography in small groups, clapping and hooting enthusiastically for one another, and then all together before taking the traditional révérence, a dramatic bow at the end.
At both classes, nearly everyone took out their phones to take a video of their hard work. After I posted a clip on Instagram of a group at ballet, several friends sent me messages saying they would love to go to dance class but offered the same excuses I had. I wrote them back with similar messages: “You should come. It’s so much fun.”
Perhaps I was too pushy in sending them schedules of future classes — dance classes aren’t for everyone — but I wish one of them would take me up on my invitation. It’s hard to describe in words how important dance classes have become in my life, but if friends came to class, they might feel the same way.
We Tried It
Format A ballet-inspired class taught by a ballerina turned social media guru, for novices and bun-heads alike.
Vibe A disclaimer on the website says it all: “Flexibility not required/ Grace not required/ Good attitude required :)”
Info Currently held once a month at Gibney in TriBeCa, $20. For a schedule, follow @evaalt on Instagram or go to ballet1.nyc. There is also a sign-up for a monthly email with class info, along with musings on dance.
Format An aerobics-inspired warm-up to Deee-Lite; choreography to the likes of Rihanna, Robyn, Britney Spears and Nelly Furtado; and a stretchy cool-down and bow, all in just 90 minutes.
Vibe As if Kate Bush choreographed a ’90s R&B video. Having a friend shoot a video of your moves is encouraged. Sometimes the whole class goes down the street to Primo’s to keep dancing.
Info Usually twice a month at Gibney in TriBeCa, $20. For a schedule, follow @laurengerrie and @marisacompetello on Instagram.
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