In 2008, my 11th grade boyfriend turned to me in the middle of a high school dance and told me I was a terrible dancer.
It was an off-handed comment that stopped me in my booty-shaking tracks, and has stuck with me ever since. It’s been in the back of my mind at every wedding, party, and nightclub that I’ve been to since, and has made me wildly self-conscious for over a decade—despite the fact that I really, really love to dance. Earlier this year, I actually signed up for a dance squad in the hopes of finally becoming a “good dancer,” but had a full-on panic attack on my way to the first rehearsal and quit without ever showing up.
After that whole disaster (which left me $200 poorer for no good reason), I decided it was time to take extreme measures, and signed myself up to take 20 dance cardio classes in 30 days at New York City’s 305 Fitness. The workout is described as a “cardio dance party,” and I committed to doing it five mornings a week to see if it would make me a better dancer. Of course, this paled in comparison to our What the Wellness star Ella Dove, who managed to squeeze in three dance cardio classes in a single day:
Club-inspired workouts, like 305, have become increasingly common in the last few years. There are at least five cardio dance studios within a one-mile radius of my New York City apartment, and a scroll through the class offerings on digital apps like Obé prove that they’ve become an at-home favorite, too. Studios are specifically crafted with low lights and extra-positive environments in order to create spaces that feel totally judgement free—which was exactly what I was looking for. “The 305 ethos is, inclusive, joyous, self expressive. [It’s] a place where people can go to shed their shame, not feel any judgement and just move their bodies,” says Sadie Kurzban, the founder and CEO of 305 Fitness. “It doesn’t matter if you perfect each move, what matters is that you just move your body, get lost in the music and have fun.”
While the whole “#nojudge” thing was what got me in the door of 305, it was what the effects of the workout that kept me coming back. “Physically, dance is a full-body workout that allows you to move every muscle in your body,” says Kurzban. “Through dance, you also get the added benefit of connecting brain with body. You’re learning a ton of coordination, agility, neuromuscular control and balance, the kinds of skills that help you in any kind of athletic realm but also definitely help you as you age to preserve your memory and everyday function.”
Cut to me at 305, powering through a rapid-fire, warmup wearing a neon sports bra in a black-lit room to the sounds of a live DJ. Following along with the moves wasn’t exactly easy, but after the first five minutes of my first class I didn’t particularly care. The low lights and high-energy community, (and, ok, the cute workout outfits) put me in the mood to literally dance like no one was watching. And while I’ve gotta admit that there were a lot of mornings when my alarm went off at 6:15 and the last thing I felt like doing was twerking to Lizzo songs for the better part of an hour, I never regretted showing up. Every time, I walked out flushed with endorphins (the dancer’s high is definitely the real deal) and ready to take on whatever the day had in store for me, with a Jonas Brothers-induced smile on my face, to boot.
I suppose that the dedication probably did make me a better dancer, sure, but by the time it was all over that wasn’t what mattered anymore. My confidence had never been higher and my mood was noticeably better than usual. This is probably embarrassing to admit on the Internet (though I guess not any more embarrassing than admitting that I got my vagina steamed), but there were multiple days when I got out of the shower after class, blasted “Soulmate” in my bedroom, and danced completely naked in the mirror. I felt good about myself and my body, which after years of being not-so-kind to it is a welcomed change. Ultimately, I finished my personal challenge with a roster of new dance moves, and felt like and entirely new, sexier and more confident woman.
Wedding season 2020, I’m coming for you. And there will be no shame in my dance floor game.
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