A Take on Dance Classes from the Latina Who Can’t Dance

Since the traumatic moment when I fell off the stage mid-dance while singing “Mi Burrito Sabanero,” I dreaded being the center of attention. To be completely honest, I was an incredible dancer. I channeled my inner “Dirty Dancing” and went in front of the spectators. As I grew older, the self-doubt and fear of being judged crept in and my desire for dancing was drowned out.

I was surrounded by an enormous force of Latin women who all danced far better than I. And I wasn’t a conventional dancer who knew how to elegantly make steps. I was the dancer who put their whole body into a dance and by the end of it was disoriented by where they ended up on the dance floor. For two years I took ballet, and it was a culmination of all the worst moments in my life. Each practice involved me falling flat onto a mat because of my inability to complete a perfect leap. The only two things I was good at were pivots and pointing my feet perfectly. I ended up quitting after the other ballerinas laughed at my plummeting leaps. Any aspirations of achieving a leap were obliterated by the absence of a leap of faith within myself. 

It was a rocky road, especially because Hispanics take dancing seriously. At every family function, once the reggaeton or bachata music starts playing, every drunk uncle gets on his feet to dance. I opted out on the dancing aspect of the parties and would sit and watch as everyone before me had fun. There were instances where I’d dip my toe back into the beat, but overall the closest I came to dancing was doing the mashed potato dance.

Now, as an adult, I’ve decided to try my best and learn how to dance. With my college budget, the best dance classes are offered by RecSports. I grabbed my nicest pair of sneakers, put on my cutest shorts and walked out in 40 degree weather all to achieve my goal of dancing better. As I arrived, I saw so many different people and felt a bit pressured to do well. The instructor, Natalie, was very sweet and integrated a lot of twerking movements within the dances. I was awful, and I do not say this with an ounce of humility. It bothered me to see my abnormally long arms swish to the side. Instead of channeling Jennifer Grey, I was channeling a windmill.

The class was nice otherwise. We had frequent water breaks over the course of the hour-long class. The space was large, and each student had enough room to spread out.

At first, we started out with some basic hip hop movements. It was fast-paced and squat-centered (my knees still hurt from the squats). Afterward, the Latin-inspired dances worked their way into the routine. To those who try their best to avoid moves with several steps, don’t worry because this class is beginner-friendly. There were several times where I lost place or almost knocked out my neighbor with a kick. However, the whole class is ran on your pace. You keep up with your own determination to achieve your goal. The hour passed by quickly, and the soundtrack was stellar—we had some old pop bops and the classic Hispanic reggaeton.

After leaving the class, it was a relief to know that I had made the initiative to overcome my biggest fear. I put it all behind me and even though I didn’t become a perfect dancer, I was proud.

For those interested in learning how to dance or connecting to their culture, the international dance class at RecSports is an excellent option. If you’re still not at a place where you feel comfortable dancing in front of others, I recommend Toni Costa and his YouTube channel. Even Zumba on the Wii is a great intro to dance. Any way you choose to learn, you’re still making the first step in learning. I may not be the best dancer, but like the Latina I am, I will always give any challenge my best shot.