Grace on the Dance Floor (Why I do Cardio Funk class)

Remember back in the early 2000’s when comedian, Dane Cooke described girls in their 20’s at the dance club?  “Forget guys! I just wanna dance,” he imitated women in a high pitch.  “And all the girls throw their purses into a big pile in the middle of dance floor.”

I was in my 20’s in the 2000’s. My friends and I watched the sketch and cried laughing because he nailed it. That was us.   We just wanted to dance… before marriage and certainly before two kids.

I’d have to dig up and recharge an old flip phone to see photographic evidence of the last time I went dancing with girlfriends at a club. But that doesn’t mean I’m not still shaking it on the dance floor still. On the contrary, it seems I still just want to dance. And lately I’ve gone out dancing every week.

My friend, Darby is a YMCA evangelist, and she got us to join last winter. (Let’s be honest, it was the childcare that sealed the deal. For 2 whole hours I can entrust my children to friendly staff who read them books and haul them around outside in a wagon. )

That’s incentive to show up, but what’s become a lovely, surprising joy in my life is what I do while my kids are in child care at the Y. And that’s Cardio Funk class with Ramsay.

I remember the first cardio funk class I attended for two reasons. First, Ramsay’s name. Of course a hip hop dance instructor would be named Ramsay. And second, how terrible I was at the dance moves. (I mean, I’ve always been a suspect dancer. If people are doing the “lawnmower” move at a wedding reception, I join in and tend to look exactly like a woman mowing her lawn…at high noon on an Austin, August day.) Grace on the dance floor has never been synonymous with Jess Archer.

Cardio Funk kicked my butt that first day. I’d never sweat more in an exercise class. I wanted more, even if I couldn’t do the moves very well.

But a funny thing has begun to happen. Even though I’m a terrible dancer, the word grace is exactly what I’ve come to love about cardio funk class. The atmosphere is inviting. People with special needs attend. There’s a guy with Downs Syndrome named Chris. He has more energy than my four year old. Sometimes, just out of pure joy, he bursts into improvisational break dancing. And Ramsay cheers for him. We all cheer for him. Cheering dovetails beautifully with dancing.

Ramsay often calls up people from class to help demonstrate the moves to a song. For five whole minutes that woman is the sexiest show girl you’ve ever seen. She’s unstoppable, like Janet Jackson in the 90’s.

Ramsay hollers and whoops and yells out encouragement. “Go, Jess!” she’s said on occasion. It makes the heart soar, and directly afterward I flop the choreography. But it doesn’t matter because I’m genuinely having fun.

I’m not at the clubs anymore, but cardio funk class is possibly even better. (No drunk guys slamming into me.) Also, for one whole hour nobody needs this mommy. Nobody is crying or pulling at my shirt. There is no laundry or mess or to do list. I don’t even have my phone with me. I am hands free and care free. It’s just my body- pumping heart, swelling lungs and muscles getting stronger every week. And that feels so good as I get one year older every year.  If I keep my eyes glued on Ramsay, and turn away from my own reflection in the big mirror, I get the moves right. Well, about 70% of the time I get them right. If I lose focus and start mentally drifting…what I should make for dinner tonight or how do I compare to that person… my feet get fumbly.   It’s all kind of the perfect metaphor for my walk with Jesus. If I keep my eyes on the instructor, full of grace and warmth, I am blissfully less aware of myself.  Hallelujah.   If I just keep my eyes on the teacher, my feet are right where they need to be.  That’s reason enough to come back for more.