It's Monday night and with precision planning I am able to make and serve my husband dinner, watch the news, clean the dishes and get us out in time for our duet step class at 8. Since Dan's stroke three years ago we don't have many activities that we can do together and our couples' duet step dance class is sacred. It was only Dan's emergency hospital stay for a serious heart issue in May that prevented us from having a perfect attendance record.
There are never parking spots available in front of the studio due to the popularity of the class before ours, so we park down the block. As we approach the building where the studio is located we can feel the sidewalk shake in time to the booming sounds emanating from the zumba class. Upon entering the room we see a kaleidoscope of colors, actually wall-to-wall bodies, undulating in time to the music. The studio is stifling hot and the humid air is filled with the scent of bodies that have been hard at work for almost an hour.
The room is packed with men and women of all shapes, sizes and ages. Bottles of water are strewn around the perimeter of the room with small hand towels scattered next to them. It is hard not to get caught up in the last few dance routines as both the music and steps are mesmerizing. A few of our duet step friends are copying the zumba movements in the back of the room. This class, taught by Wil, the number one zumba teacher in LA, mixes all styles of music and he introduces creative combinations of movement that blend latin, hip hop, African, and Arabic dance steps. The moves are rapid and change frequently so everyone has to watch him intently. No one wants to be moving in the wrong direction, although there are a few dancers who do "interpretive dancing" while the rest of the class is following the teacher. I grew up dancing and it's just the type of class I love -- but I have already indulged my love of dance earlier in the day with Tor's "Dance it Out" class at another studio. We are here for the couples' class and the opportunity to be together.
When the zumba class ends the participants slowly make their way to the back of the room to retrieve their belongings from the shelves. Many of them are dance friends and we exchange air kisses because they are dripping wet. They say a special "hello" to Dan and some even stay to watch part of the duet step class. I know that if they had willing partners, they would be out on the dance floor too.
The couples that attend the duet step class are a varied group -- one young couple is practicing for their upcoming wedding, another is a mature couple that enjoys dancing and the third a seasoned couple that we consider "advanced" because they remember the steps from week to week. They also twist and turn and unlike us, they don't get stuck with their arms knotted. From time to time our small core group is joined by newbies who catch on quickly and fit right in.
Dan and I are the resident "beginners" of the group. Dan still finds it challenging. His legs don't move easily, his balance is poor, and his right arm is difficult to maneuver. Add to that his double vision and his difficulty in remembering the steps and one can understand why we modify a lot of the movements. The steps we do are very basic and only this week did we count beyond three -- 1,2,3 - 5,6,7. We don't know where the four went! And although I try not to, I have a tendency to lead. Wil, our instructor, is constantly on my case -- "Let the man lead!"
Before Dan's stroke we loved to dance together. Dan would do the "Dan dance," and I would do whatever the music dictated -- salsa, merengue, or cha cha cha. The "Dan dance" consisted of Dan swaying his hips and moving his feet in many directions, shrugging his shoulders, always with a twinkle in his eyes. That was typical Dan -- he did his own thing, was proud of it and enjoyed himself immensely
Most of the routines in our Monday class are prescribed, and we try to execute them to the best of our ability. The moments we enjoy the best are when we are given free form time each lesson and encouraged to do whatever we wish. Dan gets that naughty look in his eyes, shrugs his shoulders, sways his hips and remembers what it was like to move unimpaired. We may not be Fred and Ginger -- but for some time each Monday we are transported by the music and support of our instructor and friends, and we believe that we are.