Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Streetdance: can you do it when you are approaching 40?

Last week I announced on Facebook and Twitter that I had signed up to attend a Streetdance class. There wasn't so much as a ripple in the Internet surf.

For some reason I expected more of a shocked response. My followers will be aware that I am fast approaching 40 years old. Admittedly I started dancing at 5 years old.  Disco, ballroom, ballet, tap, modern and Acro - this was the 70s in the Midlands, UK, and the dance was very Pop based.

But despite the fact that I love dancing and Streetdance is great fun. Despite the fact that I am feeling 20 years younger whilst doing this new class. Will I actually look stupid doing Streetdance? At what age does a Street dancer have to stop dancing else they look daft? Is there an age?  

What dancing have I done?

I haven't really done much dancing for 20 years unfortunately.  Life did it's usual thing of getting in the way of itself.  A couple of years ago I started attending a Tap and Jazz class for ladies. For those in the know it was pitched at the grade 5 level. I enjoyed it, but the classes turned into rehearsals for a show. Not a problem as you approach a show, as obviously you'll want to prepare a performance. The problem was more to do with the fact that the prep for the show started two years before the actual show. Yes. You read that correctly. It took this class two whole years to prepare two dances for a show. Not because they didn't have the ability, but because the dance kept changing. Every class became an hour of waiting around whilst the two teachers debated the choreography and tried to remember what we had done the week before, as they worked on the bizarre premise that the students would remember from one week to the next.

I have intermittently attended a local Jazz class by a teacher called Katy Robinson over the last 10 years. She runs courses of 6 classes (1 class per week for 6weeks). In her classes you learn 2 entire routines from the musicals. (Spot the difference in progress). I really enjoy these classes and have tried to get to as many as I can.

Why Streetdance?

However, what I really have hankered over in recent years is a Streetdance class. This form of dance didn't exist when I was training. It was all Disco or Jazz (Top of the Pops or Cabaret). But I also grew up in the time of Michael Jackson, so I knew the moves to Thriller and Smooth Criminal. This form of dancing didn't appear to fit in any 'category'. 20 years later Justin Timberlake was throwing similar shapes and looking good doing it, so you won't be surprised that I am a massive fan.

18 years ago I watched a film called Save the Last Dance and absolutely wanted to learn Hip Hop. I taught myself her final audition dance. The combination of Hip Hop and Ballet made the Hip Hop suddenly more accessible to little ol' me.

Now, when you can find Streetdance classes on every corner if you are between 6 and 16 years old due to the massive success of the incredibly talented Ashley Banjo and crew, Diversity, it seems a definite shame that it is almost impossible task to find a class if you remember the original Kids from Fame.  It seems to sit purely in the domain of the young.

What should Streetdance classes for ladies look like?

I ought to be more specific here too. I don't want any old class. I want a class with a proper warm up as I am getting old and have more need to protect my infrequently used dancing muscles. I want a class that teaches some technique... I don't mind exercises, centre work and floor work. In fact I demand it.  I want a good percentage of the class to be actual choreography - you know, learning an actual dance that the teacher has already prepared that is choreographed to a specific piece of music. You would be surprised how many people think you can choreograph a dance and then put any old piece of music on to dance it too. I was taught that dance is a response to music, and that your body represents an instrument. You should almost be able to guess the song if watching the dance with earplugs on, just by watching the rhythms made by the body.

What if you are not a beginner?

I also demand a class that is at a fairly fast pace. I am not a beginner; I am just a little out of shape. Weirdly there doesn't appear to be any intermediate classes for older dancers. What is up with all my fellow 1970s and 80s dance class attendees? Are you no longer dancing? Why not? Presumably you'd want an intermediate class if you started again. Would you?

And finally, finally, (back to this class) I want a proper stretch at the end of the class. Those pesky ageing muscles again.

What was my class like?

So have I found a class like this? It's a little soon to tell. I am by far the oldest person in the room. There are only four in the class, including me. The others are girls in their 20s (I think - though the older I get the harder I find it to judge age). 

The pace of the class is good for me. It is just hard enough to be challenging, but eminently achievable. There is a brief warm up, but the stretches are done so quickly I am a little worried. I think I will be stretching before we start after sitting in an office all day, else I over-stretch something.

But all in all I am loving it so far. We are dancing to a song that I know, by Missy Elliott. It's no surprise that my favourite dance film at the moment is Step Up 2: The Streets.

But am I too old for Streetdance?

But I guess, despite the fact that I love dancing and this style is great fun. Despite the fact that I am feeling 20 years younger whilst doing it. Will I actually look stupid? At what age does a Street dancer have to stop dancing else they look daft? Is there an age? Many would argue that dance is for all ages; Salsa, ballroom and so on... But can we include all styles in that view? Can you continue to dance Street, or Ballet, or Tap, into old age?

Or is this what a mid life crisis looks like? If so, bring it on! I shall crisis-on feeling "dope".


  1. Well as you know I've been street dancing for nearly three years and I hope I don't look stupid. I am the oldest in my class, but there are two others in their late 30s. Most class members are in their late 20s. The warm up is very quick, but we learn properly choreographed routines working towards a show - we do two routines, which we work on from the new year for a summer show. I hope you keep it up!

    1. Must admit I did think of your flash mob experience as I worked through the first few steps! We are dancing to Missy Elliott's Ching-a-lung (I think that's what it's called!). It is such fun! I am determined to give the youngsters a run for their money. :-)


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