Step It Up

Curiosity finally got the better of me tonight.

I’ve walked by the different classes in the gym so often, thinking how fun they look. I’ve told myself a million times that one day I would try one.

Tonight, the stars aligned, traffic was kind and I made it in time for a “power step” class.

Side note: I can’t dance, and I have no sense of rhythm, so spoiler alert here, this may not end well.

The music starts, LOUD and pumping. The students select their step benches from the stack against the wall and position them around the studio. They are all old hands at this. I sink a little into myself as I see this. I choose a spot on the end, close to the window, hopefully out of the teacher’s direct line of vision.

She sees me anyway, smiles, sort of, and away we go!

No gentle warm up, this is not yoga. It’s STEP STEP STEP, turn, STEP STEP kick turn STEP STEP STEP! I can barely make out what she is saying through the crackly microphone over the pulsing beat. I am so out of step from the very first count.

Left! No, wait, the OTHER left. No wait, what? That original left! Dang it. I’m lost again. And now you want me to TURN? Dip! Stomp, walk it out. STEP STEP STEP!

The students step and stretch furiously. They twirl and pirouette. I try, too, and almost end up spinning into the innocent barbells quietly sitting against the wall next to me. I am dizzy, but still trying desperately to keep up. I am NOT quitting, oh hell, no.

It takes me half the class to realize that I should NOT be watching the teacher in the mirror, because she’s a mirror image! Duh. No wonder I’m stepping off with my left foot when everyone else is prancing with their right. Sigh…….

I sweat furiously. I’m embarrassed, but also laughing because, in truth, it’s simply a lot of fun. I have no idea where I am in the sequence of this “step dance” but at some point, I don’t care and I just hop along as best as I can.

I feel successful at the end of the hour because I haven’t run into the wall, or tripped over the step, or lost my cookies with exertion. My legs are killing me, I’m giggling to myself at what a ludicrous show I must have made. And then the instructor looks directly at me, and tells me “good job!”

I think it’s because I didn’t give up and walk out halfway through. No matter, I’ll take that compliment!

As I make my way to the locker room, it dawns on me. This is what it must feel like for my students just starting to learn English.

The words must rush over their heads, and swirl around their ears, too quick to catch. At some point, I wonder if they know which way is up or down as the chain of sentences binds them up and spins them around. Do they just march in place, trying to keep time?

I think, too, that just like I got everything reversed in the mirror, it must be discombobulating to try to write from left to right, when all your life, you have started from the other direction. At some point, does it all become just a kaleidoscope of dots and dashes? Does anything make sense?

Flailing about tonight, being lost and trying to hang on was a good reminder for me. To be out of my element, to be the one turning left when everyone else is going right.

Yeah, I needed that.

I’ll be back for more classes. And maybe, just maybe, while I’m searching for another way to get my students to understand my English, I’ll be counting a one two step step step beat in my head.





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