I had an interesting experience this evening.
There was a dance class promoted on an internal mailing list recently in work, and it took place today. It was advertised as being taught by a hip-hop dancer, who was then hyped up with a link to a video of her competing in a dance-off. I took this as an indication that the class would be much like the once-off class I took in Dublin a year or two ago with a visiting Googler from Mountain View. At that class there had been a group of both men and women, beginners all, working through the first section of a choreographed hip-hop dance routine. It was energetic and challenging, and everyone had fun.
Today, though, I showed up to a pilates room. There I found seven or eight very slim and prim-looking ladies with all the appearance of being ready to put on a ballet performance. Someone’s taking this fun little class a bit seriously, I thought, surprised by the dance shoes and lycra where I expected to see skate shoes and baggy jeans. A stereo played some music that, rather pointedly it seemed to me, was not hip-hop. I assumed the real music would arrive with the teacher, and that this music must just have been left in the stereo from before. People introduced themselves. I won’t pretend that I didn’t detect just a little surprise when I said I would be taking part. The class started.
You’ll be shocked to discover this—as I was—but it did not appear to be a hip-hop dance class.
I followed along anyway. As instructed I began clumsily mimicking the teacher’s graceful movements in time with the music. I stretched, and folded, and swept my arms out in wide arcs, and so on. I wondered if there was any way that this was somehow going to segue into a flurry of popping, locking, and stomping. It didn’t seem likely. I slowly touched my toes. How much would my dignity suffer if I were to pretend that, yes, this is what I had come here for, and stayed through to the end? I slowly, smoothly, stood back up straight. If I just ran right out the door and never returned, how hard would it be to get another job? I held my hands out behind me and carefully bent forward at the waist. Was there any chance that most of the people here hadn’t noticed me, all tucked away at… the front of the class?
The instructor started to move around the room, giving hints individually to the other students. I hoped she wouldn’t address me. There was still some small possibility that we could all get through this without anyone acknowledging that I had actually showed up. I was relieved to have her completely ignore me.
The first track finished. The teacher began to speak.
“Ok, next we’re going to…”
“Excuse me,” I interrupted.
“Um… This isn’t exactly what I expected. I think I might just… leave?”
She didn’t argue.
To be honest, I’m still undecided on the new job idea.