Sunday, January 11, 2015

First Class

You have to start somewhere. Last night I met someone who did, and loved Capoeira, so today I did my first Capoeira class. The Dance Attic in Fulham is not far from where I stay and offers a full range of classes including Flamenco, Ballroom, Street, Jazz, Tango, Salsa etc. I have always loved the fact that in London, if you want to do Northern Russian Speckled Frog Tulip Serenading, there is probably a club for that with daily classes that meets twice on Sundays. Every single person who is awesome at something once couldn't do it. Every single one had a first class.


As part of my sedentary lifestyle, my fingers were the only things that got to dance for multiple hours a day. I need to get my bits to move. When I heard Capoeira described by a fellow yoga teacher, it seemed to fit the bill. It includes movement, balance, strength, interaction, music, singing and even a bit of poetic license. In this lesson the teacher, who seemed to have magical control over his body, was talking beautifully of the balance between the downward force of gravity and the upward force from pushing against the earth. We repeat how what goes up must come down, but in learning to control strength and gravity and get the body to move, what goes up must have come down first. The explanation of how to gather strength for handstands etc. is similar to Josh Waitzkin's concept of having to invest in loss. To be learning you have to go through the awkward stage.

As I stare in the mirror surrounded by people who mostly seem to know what they are doing, I saw a chap with a bemused look on his face. Me. The teacher moves fluidly, his voice calm and his actions pulse with rhythm. I try to repeat each movement fighting the mist of confusion. I try to breath and enjoy myself. Every now and then I had to skip through multiple intermediate steps to catch up with the rhythm of the class. A little laugh at how much I have to learn and a reminder that everyone has to start somewhere. When the teacher comes and shows me, I get it after a few repetitions. Then he goes away and somehow it is gone. Oh dear.

Then there is the issue of fitness. The first class was as much about using muscles that I had told my body I didn't need for well over a decade, as seeing what they were needed for. To get to the teachers level of calm and rhythm, I need to have the movements become second nature. Instead of a checklist of conscious movements, everything starts to flow. I have experienced this enough elsewhere to know a first class is actually more about learning to recognise this happening in others. To get a sense that the juice is there even before you taste it. 

I got that sense. I'll be back.

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