It should feel like a safe place: the aerobics room of my gym, surrounded by women in t-shirts and yoga pants sipping SmartWater and occasionally stretching a quad.
But we aren’t here to do downward-facing dog or endure squats with rubber tubing; no, this is much scarier. We’re here to learn a dance.
Just the word “dance” causes sweat to form on the back of my neck.
You see, I have PTDD—Post-Traumatic Dance Disorder. I was scarred by the dances of my youth and still suffer flashbacks.
It started with that dance in junior high, where I—the gawky, long-legged girl with braces—was invited to dance with a circle of cool girls, only to watch them roll their eyes at each other and smirk.
It continued with the sock-hop in high school, where I fell off my platform shoes while doing the bunny hop and bruised my…um…tail.
Then there was the time I auditioned to do the can-can in the French Club Variety Show, only to have Madame Tibbetts suggest that perhaps I should try out for emcee instead. “More talk; less dance,” was, I believe, the exact translation.
Yes, I was the Elaine Benes of my hometown. You remember Elaine—the Julia Louis-Dreyfus character on “Seinfeld” who thought she was a pretty hot dancer, while in reality, she was pretty appalling.
Only unlike Elaine, I know I’m appalling. It’s been a life-long struggle.
Even today, all it takes is a few chords from “Free Bird” to call forth several cringe-worthy prom memories.
So, you may wonder, why am I here at the gym, learning a dance?
I’m hoping a flash mob can save me.
The flash mob is for a good cause—the “One Billion Rising” movement—and a good cause can give us courage to face down our fears—even if our fear is just of bumbling a box step. “One Billion Rising” and the Jeanne Geiger Women’s Crisis Center—who is sponsoring the flash mob on February 15th at the Newburyport Tannery—help people with fears far more serious than mine. Their goal is to end violence against women.
I’ve decided that supporting their cause is worth embarrassing myself through dance one more time.
Plus, I remind myself, a flash mob requires no Julia Louis-Dreyfus-like innovation; it simply asks me to follow. Assuming I don’t trip over my feet, I’ll look—mostly—like everyone else.
And so, that afternoon at the gym, follow is what I do. I carefully imitate the instructor as she shows us the moves. Sometimes when she sambas left, I samba right, but I manage not to injure the person next to me, so I guess it’s all good.
I make it through the dance several times and also practice at home with the “One Billion Rising” videos on YouTube. It’s a really simple dance, but given my history, really, no amount of practice is too much.
I hope those folks local to Newburyport will join us at the Tannery at 4 pm on the 15th. Or go to the website www.jeannegeigercrisiscenter.org and donate or buy a t-shirt. Or sponsor someone—sponsor me, if you like—and help us unite to end violence against women.
We all want to dance.