So yesterday I was talked into a dance class by my sister, D.  I love dancing, and the thought of going somewhere and doing something that I enjoy but is still a little outside of my comfort zone was appealing.  To be honest, when I accepted I think I surprised her and her friend T. who was going with her.  They had been to a similar class the previous week where they learned the routine to Single Ladies by Beyoncé.  They really enjoyed the class, and so this one called Diva was supposed to be in the same vein.

The blurb said stuff about channelling your inner Britney etc. but I figured, we would just dance, sweat a lot and learn some sort of routine.  It was a beginner level class, and only an hour long, so I figured, it probably takes more than an hour to kill me, it should be ok.

Needless to say, I left my inner Britney, Gaga and Beyoncé at home.  They are not very close to the surface of my consciousness.

So we rock up to the Reebok Centre in Canary Wharf.  I cannot express what a swanky gym this is.  It looks like a luxury spa, with muted colours and a lot of wood and glass.  We made our way to the changing rooms, and my world was blown.

I won’t claim to be a regular gym goer, but I have been to a few gyms in my lifetime.  Even the poshest gyms I have ever been to never looked or smelled like this one.  Close your eyes for a moment and picture your gym changing rooms.  If they are near a pool, you can almost smell the harsh chemicals they use to keep the water clean and disease from spreading.  Now look around in your mind palace.  It’s a wet, dirty tiled floor, two sinks, 5 toilet cubicles, maybe 3 shower stalls, only one of which has a door and a hairdryer attached to the wall by the sinks which may or may not work depending on the time of day or planet alignment.  Now let me describe to you these changing rooms.

You enter a large, CARPETED! space, with orchids on display at one end and cubby holes with hundreds of fluffy freshly laundered towels neatly displayed.  You walk into a long corridor with ironing boards and irons on the left, and banks of hair stations on the right with Hairdryers, diffusers, GHD straighteners in front of actual mirrors.  Every so often to the left and right, there are recesses which contain about 40 lockers, no keys required, just a simple system where you make up a pin number on the spot.  Each of these recesses has a towel drop and a large plush leather banquette.  As you move through this already unbelievable space, you are faced with a bank of sinks to the left of which are 15-20 toilets and the right of which are long banks of showers with doors.  I mean I have been to 5 star hotels that are shittier than this place.

I must have had an expression on my face of complete amazement, I know I was working the jaw-drop effect.  We went into an alcove and started disrobing for the class.  As I looked around, I began to notice all the nudity around me.  I have no problem with nudity (unless it’s my own) and certainly would not begrudge anyone their naked time, but really, how much body confidence do you have to have, to be standing in a crowded room completely naked, with a towel wrapped around your head, checking your phone messages?  I seriously wanted to go up to this woman and give her a round of applause. There were so many of these women, completely unself-conscious, walking around as if they were alone at home and just owning it.  I was impressed and extremely envious all at once.

Anyway, I was quite nervous about the class because it became apparent as we were walking through the gym that I was at least 10-15 years older than everyone there.  I began to question my decision to join a Diva dance class, but then I thought whatever, how bad can it be, it is an exercise class, I am always talking about how I should exercise more, so this cannot possibly be a terrible thing.  We walked through what can only be described as a corridor of testosterone where all the weight machines were being used by men who are busy looking down at their muscles as they lift things and then lower them repeatedly.  We went into a dance studio with mirrors on all four walls, and a large glass doorway looking out into the weight area.  Great, an audience for my humiliation, just what I always wanted.  I had harboured hopes of loitering at the back of the class and not being too obvious about being the person who turns the wrong way or at the wrong time, but the back of the class was the area most visible to the testosterone zone.

We went up to the instructor who was a delightfully chirpy and pretty young woman called Bonnie.  She was wearing leopard print leggings, an oversize checked shirt, a sweatshirt and a woolly hat perched atop her head.  She gave me a look which I didn’t try to interpret, and then she introduced herself to the class.  She is actually the founder and director of this company called Seen on Screen Fitness and basically, they do workouts based on music videos.  It’s a great idea, and their timetable alone indicates that they have plenty of business.  She told us we would be dancing to a song by Ciara called Body Party.  Then she said something which almost had me leaving the room before we started.

“It’s a slow song, and we are going to work it!  The routine starts with us against the wall, getting down onto our knees and flicking our hair…”

As she was speaking, she was demonstrating, and frankly, I thought to myself that this body just isn’t designed for that kind of movement.  D looked over at me. Clearly the horror showed in my face.  “I’m so sorry.” She mouthed.

“OK, let’s warm up to Beyoncé!”

Beyoncé comes on and we start stretching etc.  So far so good.  As we’re warming up she is talking about what she wants us to get out of the class.  I couldn’t fault the logic, even if I felt that it would be a stretch for me to locate my inner diva.  Basically the point of the class is to make you feel good,  and I couldn’t argue with that.

Five minutes later, during the sit ups section of the warm up, I was arguing with it.  Sit ups are painful enough without doing them at 100mph and throwing in obliques and the like.  As soon as that section ended, I toyed with the idea of just disappearing as if to go to the bathroom, and never coming back.

“OK!” she said, “Pick a spot against one of the walls and let’s get our diva on!”

It was at this point that she removed her hoodie and hat, thank goodness because I was beginning to think that anyone who would risk death by overheating for fashion’s sake should not be teaching dance or any sporting activity.

So, the intro was easy, we had to get on tiptoe, raise our hands up on the mirror, wiggle our butts, do the same thing not on tiptoe and then turn with attitude and a snap.  I am not in favour of snaps while dancing, but I guess in some cases it does convey the attitude.  And this is what this class was really about.  Attitude and feeling good about yourself.  As the woman kept saying:

“Keep doing it, but practice the attitude more than the steps.  The steps will come, but you have to sell the routine.  Once you’ve got the attitude, all the rest will fall into place.”

I liked the message.  The point was to have fun and enjoy it, not to feel incompetent because you weren’t clicking, snapping or turning at the same time as everyone else.  I am used to being the last to click into a routine, so my embarrassment wasn’t about not getting it.  My embarrassment was about how deep my inner diva is located.  It is deep undercover. My inner diva is Axel Foley.

No matter how many times she would yell out “Sell it!” or “Work it” I just couldn’t put on the ‘I’m sexy and I know it’ attitude.  She also kept saying:

“Imagine the man of your dreams fancies the pants off you!”

Wow I was thinking, Santa Claus fancies me?  That’s a bit creepy.

Anyway, I haven’t ever kneeled down and shot back up again so many times in such a short period of time.  I felt like I was atoning for a lifetime of missed church services.  And my knees.  Hurt. So. Much.

Then we had to walk (read strut) into the middle of the room and finish off the routine.  This bit involved more steps and choreography which I enjoyed, but it also involved coordination of the arms and feet – not so good.  There was a lot of looking left and right, looking pissed off, pointing and stroking your own body.  All in all, a dance that would befit any of the songstresses the blurb had indicated.  So once you had identified with the diva you wanted to emulate – Britney/Beyoncé/Ciara/J-Lo/Rihanna, you were golden.  I however, do not really identify with any of these women. I admire them, like their music, watch their videos with a curl of my lip because women didn’t need to writhe around naked to sell the music in my day and then I stop doing that because I realise that I am bloody ancient, and that it’s bollocks, women had to do all sorts of things to sell music in my day, it just seems so tame now that we have forgotten how avant-garde it was then.  For example, Madonna had to piss the Catholic Church and in particular the Pope off to sell her records. (See what I did there?  I used the word records.  I am practically a dinosaur for goodness’ sake). I mean we were shocked when Madonna showed us her bra straps, and now I feel like I could recognise Rihanna’s flaps in a police line up.  I mean seriously – you heard it here first people –  Flaps are the new bra straps.  I feel like we should sew that on a pillow or something.

Anyway, the fact that I found it hard to find my inner Diva illustrates only that I was really a bit too old for that particular class, but I did find it a bit hilarious all in all, and as I suspected, an hour didn’t kill me.

“See you next week!  We are going to do the same class again to perfect the routine!” yelled Bonnie enthusiastically.

Not going to happen I was thinking to myself.  Fortunately, neither D nor T enjoyed the class much either, they – like me – were expecting something different, and so we don’t have to repeat the experience.

“At the weekend we are doing the same routine, but it’s a heels masterclass!”

Heels?  You must be joking.  I can barely move and I was wearing trainers…  Which may be the other problem.  Beyoncé et al don’t wear trainers when they are writhing around and making love to the mirror.  They wear ridiculous stilettos.  But another difference between me and them is that they can walk and move semi-normally in heels, whereas I can just about manage to stand in one place (with occasional wind-milling arms as I lose my balance due to small, often imperceptible, shifts in the air).  So dancing in 3 or 4 inch heels is totally out of the question.

I will go to another dance class soon I think.  I mean I want the opportunity to wander around completely naked with a towel wrapped around my head in a carpeted changing room.  Just the diva part, I think I might skip.  In the cold light of the next day, here is what I learned in the Diva Dance class.

1)      I am not a diva.

2)      I do not have anything deep inside to draw on to become one.

3)      Beyoncé, Rihanna, J-Lo and Britney work hard and make it look easy, but it isn’t.

4)      My knees are black and blue; I could never be a Catholic.

5)      Would anyone finding my inner diva please send her right over, I think I could get to like this woman.