Afterwards, I went to find the dance studio that Robert Chan has been raving to me about for years. When I called, she said their dance class started at 1:20. Of course, having had to stop for food, I was late. Again. But.. the class was three hours long. It started with an hour of pilates, then another 45 minutes of warm-up (simple rise-and-fall exercises, waltz boxes, all solo) and then the rest of the class was spent on a routine – lots of solo work again, but then lots of partnered dancing at the end. It was so, so, so, so lovely. How can I express my utter contentment? I was so rusty, and I couldn’t control my foot rise, or stand up straight, but none of this mattered.
They split the class into three “groups” for the partnered choreo practice, in order of expertise. My partner and I got high praise from the teacher, and I felt so happy to just be dancing with another person. I knew I was grinning like a wild idiot, and I couldn’t help it. I loved, too, dancing in the 2nd and 3rd groups (there are way fewer females than males in this class) and partnering some of the newer dancers.
At the end of the class, the teacher scolded some of the students for being lazy about practicing. Then, since I registered by my Chinese name, she pointed to me and said, “It doesn’t matter if the person is tall or short, advanced or a beginner, Jia Yan will dance with them all. You have to be more like her, and dance whenever you get the chance.” I thought to myself: Good thing they don’t know how desperate I am.. or how lucky they are. Some of the girls in there are SO good, too. They have beautiful movement through their legs, really strong ankles and feet, incredible flexibility.
The capstone to my day was having dinner with Li Chunlin (one of our WCS volunteers) and Andrew, and then strolling through Olympic Park. The Bird’s Nest and Aquatic Center are best at night, luminous and strange. Bats fly under the towering lampposts that light the walkway (stay away during lightning storms, the lamppost signs read), there are tourists everywhere, and further away guitarists and dancers set up and perform every night. At this point my feet were really angry with me. But I was so happy to just be with people who knew the city well, and who felt no qualms about chattering away at me in Chinese. I couldn’t understand 60% of it, but I got the gist! And it will only get better from here.