You can dance if you want to.
No, seriously: I’m not just singing Men Without Hats lyrics here. You can dance, even if you think you can’t. You don’t have to have experience. You don’t have to be young and pliable. You don’t even need to buy special clothes or shoes (most of the time).
To prove it—and to alert you to National Dance Week, which is happening now and is more worth celebrating than most holidays, in my view, even if you just pop a Quaalude, pull on your yoga pants and rewatch All That Jazz—I took a different dance class in the Portland Metro area for five days running. Full disclosure: I have some dance experience. But I’m also old enough to qualify for an AARP card, and one of my knees has been acting up lately, so I’m not exactly waiting for a phone call from World of Dance.
Luckily, Portland is wall-to-wall with classes for all ages, skill levels, tastes and degrees of decrepitude; check out Dance Wire PDX’s useful Class Finder to find some that sound appealing. To narrow my choices, I set a few parameters: I’d only take a class that didn’t require the purchase of special shoes (sorry, ballet and tap), that you could drop into (workshops were out), that didn’t require a partner (see you later tango, salsa, ballroom) and that was open to beginners. What follows is a day-by-day diary of what I found.
Part One: BeMoved at BodyVox
What is it? A movement class inspired by a range of social and cultural dance styles
What makes it fun? The thrill of the unknown
Who is it for? People who want a dance-y workout without killing themselves
Who is it not for? Genre purists
The hardest part of Be Moved is finding parking near BodyVox’s Northwest Portland studio, so plan your time accordingly. Former BodyVox company member Laura Haney teaches this class twice weekly to all skill levels, so if you’re not an absolute beginner, you could probably modify the movement to make it more challenging, if that’s what you’re into.
BeMoved® is a trademarked class syllabus created by former River North Chicago AD Sherry Zunker; it’s available in 10 U.S. states and various parts of Canada, and requires teacher certification. (BodyVox is the only studio offering it locally.) It’s designed to be what Zunker calls “therapeutic,” with a gentle warmup and cool-down that incorporate stretching and flowy movement that wouldn’t look out of place in a contemporary class.
What distinguishes BeMoved is that classes come with a different theme each week—backup singers, disco, Roaring ‘20s—featuring choreography and music to match. So you don’t really know what you’re getting into until you show up; in my case, it’s Bollywood.
Haney leads us through a simple combination of Indian dance-inspired movements: unfurling “flower petal” fingers, stamping promenades and turns. Haney, a pleasantly serene sort, breaks down steps clearly and offers encouragement without all the shouting you’re likely to find in, say, Zumba. (I don’t have go “woo!” while I dance? Thank you, Krishna.)
In this 15-person class, which skews older and female, nobody seems to be flailing, and many people are outright beaming by the end, when we dance the finished combination to “Jai Ho” in two groups, facing one another. I don’t leave drenched in sweat—a bonus, since I’m heading to work directly afterward—or in pain, but my upper arms get enough of a workout to be noticeable later.
Coming Next: Hip-Hop at Vega Dance Lab