By Cherri Ellis
If fitness classes were people, then I would be one of those commitment-phobic idiots wondering why I was still single. I have hooked up with a lot of classes and actually been pretty intimate with some of them, but I have yet to settle down. My gym bag has notches in it from aerobics, Jazzercise, aerial silk Pilates, Zumba, yoga, hot yoga, and all of the gyms. I have had a personal trainer (which rocks) and I once helped my girlfriend train for a charity walk across the state of Alabama. For weeks, we walked anywhere from one to five hours at a stretch around the city’s neighborhoods. We were at various times attacked by a dog, threatened by a group of drunk college boys, and caught in a blinding rain that we just kept walking through because it was impossible to get any wetter.
I saw the class advertised online and popping up all over Facebook. It was called Sol Dance Experience, and it was advertised as a way to “Dance Like No One is Watching.”
Unable to talk a friend into joining me one night, I decided on my own to give it a whirl. I loved it! It is dancing, but with all of the irritants and self-consciousness removed. Dancing, yes, but not as regimented as line dancing or Jazzercise. It is movement, but not as militarized as step aerobics or as deliberate as instructor-led choreography. There is great music, pumped up loud like when you’re alone in the car and your song comes on. It is pitch black in the room, so everyone is given a small, glow-in-the-dark “firefly” that you place on the floor at your feet. This is your marker, and you give yourself about four feet around it. If you wear a Fitbit, you are given a little piece of black duct tape to put over the light so as not to distract.
The creator of this class, Laura Interval Gaines, is so charming that you instantly forgive her for being tall and thin with perfect hair. She explains before class that if you need assistance, you are to wave your firefly around in the air and she will guide you to the restroom or whatever else you may need. On the final song, she busts out gloves that glow and leads the room in some simple but fun choreography.
During the first song, I sort of danced in place like I was at a casual party. The music went through Motown, Beyoncé, Madonna (in the fun “Borderline” days before she was British), plenty of killer salsa tunes, and some classic David Bowie. The final tune that we all danced to together by the light of the instructor’s glow sticks was Aretha Franklin’s “Respect.” There was much whooping.
For my second class, I was ready. I was ready to burn calories in the mosh pit of my mind, and I decided I had found my latest shortcut to Thin Me. (Thin Me lives inside me with all the other mes. She is one elusive little witch and hardly ever comes out.) I was wearing my favorite yoga pants that my daughter had given me. They are not the innocuous black kind that flair out and allow you to run into the grocery store unnoticed. These are pants that say to the world, “I am not relaxing. I AM WORKING OUT.” They have designs on them, zip down to the ankle, and mean business. Unless you are built like my 5-foot, 9 ½ inch 23-year-old daughter, they are pants best worn in the dark.
The beat dropped and I was ready. I danced like no one was watching. I was the love child of Jennifer Beale in Flashdance and Kevin Bacon in Footloose. When the Latin music kicked in, I was winning Dancing with the Stars. Gwen Stefani and I nailed it at our Super Bowl appearance. I was back on stage in my musical theater days, nailing a double pirouette. I was in the club in Miami at midnight in a short silk beaded dress and heels. I was Charlie’s angel, kickboxing my way out of danger.
After about 30 minutes of this, I was exhilarated but exhausted, and I started to drop down to the floor to do some abdominal work. As I bent over, I was startled at the sight of a cluster of bubbles rushing up to my face, and I jumped. When I jumped the bubbles jumped with me, and I realized that my pants had glow-in-the-dark designs on them. They were on the outside of my right thigh, a cluster of bubbles that looked like they were powered by a 120-watt bulb. Laying on my back, I covered them with my flattened palm, and the room was dark again until I did a sit-up and found more on the outside of my left calf. Covering those with the other hand, I froze. I considered staying in that pose for the remaining half hour of class, but if I had that kind of abdominal strength, I wouldn’t have been class shopping in the first place. I realized with disturbing clarity that while I had been dancing like nobody was watching, I had been the only thing visible in the room.
The second half of class felt different, pretty much proving Gaines’s theory that anonymity unleashes freedom of expression. I haven’t been back yet. I will return, though, because it is a flat-out blast. When I do go, I will have first examined my outfit while standing inside a dark closet.