Guest Blogger — Uraline September Hager
Uraline was my road buddy during the Dance Week festival, taking classes with me and on her own. She was my eyes and ears for Day 10 of the festival as I was attending a Zumba Jam Session (a 3 hour training to learn new choreography) in New Jersey. Uraline took both Dancehall Workout and House Dance. These are her thoughts:
1.00 pm – Dancehall Workout @ Ripley Grier
i was pissed when i arrived because i was 10 minutes late (due to the lack of information at ripley’s front desk), but my anxiety was quickly alleviated when i saw that there was only one student in the class. class hadn’t really started. we began, and eventually two more women joined in. the music was fun, all dancehall and carnival style. every song had its own dance routine.
rayvynne, the instructor, would usually mark the sequence before she played the song so that we could follow along better. the basic move was whining. whining = gyrating plié in dancehall. the moves were very sexy. i felt like a dancehall queen. she was good at identifying the names of the dances, like “the crocodile.” she had a great energy about her. anyone who has ever danced to a few dancehall songs up in the club without a break or pause, already knows that dancehall is a good workout. most of the moves require a lot of lower back, abs, and thigh strength. and of course, as is customary in dancehall and soca, we did a few dance sequences with flags. i rocked the jamaican flag, lol.
towards the end of the class, we did a lot of wall work. we whined up against the wall, facing the wall with our posteriors up and out, as well as back up against the wall as though we were grinding up against our respective boos, (again customary in dancehall lol). one wall routine required us to whine and cock up one leg at the same time. we then had to alternate, cocked leg for four counts, central whine for 4 counts, then the other leg cocked up for 4 counts. repeat. the class ended with a circle in which each of us got in the middle and showed off what we learned. after the circle, she cooled us down and stretched us out. i definitely felt like i was ready to hit up a jamaican beach party and show off what i had learned.
6.00 pm – House Dance @ Alvin Ailey
i was nervous that this class was going to be full. the class was capped at 150 students, and my boy and i were 130-something on the sign in sheet. thankfully, the class had no more than 30 people and we were in a spacious gorgeous 5th floor ailey studio, usually reserved, i believe, for rehearsal space for the first company. i was very excited to take this class because house music has become a recent love of mine (in the past 6 or 7 years or so). the one little house step that i know is completely self-taught. i’m always in awe and amazement when i see a good house dancer up in the club. my amazement borders on awe and ‘damn, that’s sexy!’
class started with the instructor fiddling around with the sound system. i appreciated his desire to find the right balance and properly equalize the sound for us. the music was on point! even though my knees were killing me from my previous dancehall class earlier in the day, his music kept calling me. it would’ve been a sin to keep still.
he started with a basic warm up of isolations. the warm up also included some basic foot work. i thought the instructor, eddie, was pretty patient with the students. he broke down the steps when necessary and really tried to guide students who struggled with their footing and coordination.
the moves are all grounded in a demi-plié position in which the dancer is always bouncing. this bouncing demi-plié position is what gives house dancers that sense of being very light on their feet and kind of flying through the air. The moves started easily and got increasingly difficult. The moves require a lot of agility and fast foot work. after the warm-up, eddie had us doing routines across the floor. once again, he did a great job of breaking down the movements and answering questions and confusion. his class had me sweating profusely. usually in situations like that, i run for my towel and my water and take every last nanosecond of my break. in this class, i found myself bopping to the music, even during my treasured breaks.
after we moved across the floor, we came back to the center to learn the dance sequence. even when the choreography became challenging, it was still fun. the class was scheduled to end at 7:30 pm. 7:30 came and went, and eddie kept teaching and dancing. i wish i could’ve stayed until the end, but my friend and i had to leave. i enjoyed many classes during dance week, but this is the ONE class that i’m seriously itching to return to once my poor knees recover.