Posted by: Chelsea Novak | January 26, 2012

The Last Dance

When I was a child and I was asked “what do you want to be when you grow up?” the answer was almost always “a dancer.” I loved dancing. If my parents left me home alone, I pushed all the furniture aside and danced ’til I dropped. I spent hours in our basement watching music videos and recreating routines (I *may* still do this, but I’ll deny it if you ever call me on it). Like other kids, I took ballet and jazz. I even had an ill-advised foray into tap dancing. Was a good at it? I don’t remember and it didn’t really matter. I hit 5’9″ at the age 12 and it was the final nail in the coffin of my would-be dancing career. Dance classes were traded to make room for other activities. I never stopped loving dancing though, and it was always in my life, one way or another. More recently, it’s been a very important part of my life and at times, been key in saving it.

Almost exactly five years ago I took my first dance class with Eneli. It was at this all-girls boutique gym that I’d been to the previous summer for my bachelorette party. I stood in the back (cause a) that’s what you do when you’re new to a class and b) shy, tall girl), not knowing what to expect. Loud hip hop music blasted and what may be the world’s most terrifying awesome warm-up began. I was so hooked, like at the reptilian brain level. It’s not often that you do something and instantly feel “this is totally the thing for me.” It was a class called MTV Choreography. We learned do dance like they do in music videos. And it was the kind of fun I lack superlatives for.

This quickly led me into taking Hip Hop classes with En as well. I even dragged my best friend Tash to come along, as we were long-time workout buddies and I was about to quit the treadmill forever. As I said to Tash when I was selling her on the classes “the dancing is fun, but OMG you are going to love the instructor.”

En is this insanely talented, hilarious, whirling dervish of a person. To know her is to adore her. She taught me a lot more than just steps. In the following months and years she taught me that it didn’t matter at all how big or small you are, so long as you dance with attitude. So much so, that this tall girl stands up at the front of the class to dance now. *snap*snap*snap*

En also taught me the fine art of faking it until you make it and, even better, that when you screw up, laugh if off and own it (I even created a special dance for when I make mistakes. When I make mistakes outside of dance class, I do the dance in my head). I don’t know what it was about these classes, but they helped me not be so damn serious. And when I had an awful day, dancing it out to some moderately vulgar hip hop really made things better.

Because her classes were challenging and entertaining, there were a lot of people who became regulars. Some seriously quality people. Some have come and gone, but I’ve made some dear friends along the way. We’ve gotten into the best kinds of trouble in and out of class together.

Last year, these classes taught me something I never would have predicted. I learned that even in the darkest days of depression, dancing with your friends for an hour can be enough to keep you held together for another day. Having something like that in your life, even if only for a little while can sometimes be the difference between sinking and swimming.

As you may have guessed by all this reflection, this dancing ritual is about to come to an end. En is moving away and while I know I’ll keep dancing, it is the end of an era. Tonight is our last dance class and obviously I’m heartbroken. I knew it couldn’t have gone on forever (at some point my body was going to make it clear that we are simply to old for such silliness  – note: we’re not even close to there yet), but it would have been okay if it had lasted a few years more.

What I feel most is gratitude. For five years, my Tuesday and Thursday nights have been about doing something I love with people I really enjoy. That’s over 500 hours of dancing my ass off. And while it may never be the same as dancing with En and the other girls, I’m take the attitude I learned there with me wherever I go.

Thanks for everything En.


  1. I love this post. I was very afraid you were about to say you couldn’t dance anymore because of your knee or some other injury. So glad that’s not it, but sad that you’re losing your teacher.

    I hope someday to return to my favorite Zumba teacher, whose name happens to be Isis.

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