I think every really good PCV comes to a point in his or her life when they make an effort to learn a local dance. Or at least, that’s what I’m telling myself as I go to my dance lessons twice a week. But it’s not like I really need an excuse. I love dancing.
After a brief stint in high school of not really feeling comfortable with dancing, I found my rhythm in college with trips to Krush Girls, Ecuador, and Dr. Wheeler’s Ballroom Foundations 1. Now I’m ready to dance whenever and wherever. Which for right now, is Monday and Wednesday at 2:00 (2:20ish when the teacher finally shows up.)
Life here is a little boring. I think I’ve noted before that there isn’t a lot to do at night. I don’t speak the local social language. And I don’t really have friends here. So I wanted to seek out dancing as a way to meet people and occupy my time. I asked around and found out there was a dance teacher at the local dom cultura (house of culture, kinda like the cultural building in town.) So one day I went over there to find out when classes were offered. I was thinking it would be like a dance studio in America. Maybe Monday there would be classical dance, Tuesday and Thursday there might be ballroom, etc.
Well, I was told that the balletmaster was not back yet, so I waited around with a bunch of guys for a while. That’s always fun. I like the me-alone-with-locals situation because I get to meet new people and expose them to what an American is really like in person. After waiting about an hour, the balletmaster finally shows up and I tell her I want to learn how to dance. Instead of telling me when I can come, she asks me what time is best for me. Slightly confused, I run through my schedule. The only free times are when I have lunch for two hours and she only has lunch for one. Then we decide on twice a week: Mondays and Wednesdays. I tell her I’ll see her on Wednesday at 2:00 and head back to work.
Wednesday comes and I’m pretty excited. Something to do. And dancing. Ultimately I want to get back to ballroom, but I figure I’ll start with some traditional Kazakh dancing. Good way to ingratiate myself with the locals and learn for future parties and danceoffs. I’m still not entirely sure of what is going on. No mention of payment was made. I don’t know if there will be other students. Or anything really. But I show up at 2:00. And she shows up at 2:30. And we begin.
I learn that Kazakh male dancing revolves around a horse. Or rather the motions of riding a horse. So I learn a few basic steps that may be reminiscent of Monty Python, only I don’t have anyone following me around with the coconuts. She tells me that I don’t learn badly, and seems generally satisfied with my slow progress. I know that I’m a slow learner for choreography from ballroom and my experience with the Atlanta Bhangra Coalition (had to give a shout out), but I can pick it up with enough repetition. We call it a day after about thirty minutes.
Since then, I’ve had a few commitments that have kept me away, but I was able to make it back yesterday. I learned some hot new moves and got to practice my old ones as well. I’m really looking forward to being able to put them all together in about a month and a half when the volunteers have a danceoff at the end of March. I might even buy a coconut for it.