Canned heat

If my propensity to procrastination leads me to academically crash and burn this year, at least I can say I left Queen’s knowing how to dance. When I first set foot on campus soil over two years ago, I couldn’t dance to save my life. It was only natural, then, that attending the first-year orientation dance gripped me with a fear matched only by presenting my parents with a substandard report card in middle school.

However, a new friend in my frosh group taught me how not to look like a gyrating stick man, and slowly encouraged my clumsy flailing on the dance floor. I’m happy to say I can look back on that night without unpleasant memories, but I was also relieved that I didn’t have to be placed in such a perilous situation again. At least, that’s what I thought.

A week later, I went to athletics night with that same friend, and we happened to pass by the breakdancing booth. There were three or four dancers there who were clearly cooler looking than I could ever hope to be. One turned to me with a welcoming grin and said, “Join up, man!” My friend urged me on, saying, “If I can try out for cheerleading, you can try breakdancing!” I picked up the pen and signed my name. I had no idea what I had gotten myself into.

I walked into my first class expecting nothing but humiliation and physical pain. What I got instead was a taste of my newest addiction. Like some twisted Petrarchan irony, I was drawn to this new pleasurable pain that was “breaking.” I tripped over my feet toprocking, and I loved it. I killed my wrist practicing the most basic freezes, but I kept trying. While doing the six-step, I tangled my legs like an incompetent contortionist, but I’d untangle them and start over.

Never before had I been so inept at something, but at the same time such a thing was never so intoxicating. I would practice in the stairway on my residence floor, without any music: an object of curiosity for passersby. I started listening to more hip-hop: the good stuff, like Rakim, The Sugar Hill Gang and Grandmaster Flash. I downloaded videos of b-boys and watched in awe, the talent of these dedicated dancers. It was only adding fuel to the fire. I wanted to become good. No, more than that: I wanted to become great.

Earlier this year I bumped into my frosh friend who had encouraged me so long ago. I threw down a routine at the sidewalk sale as she watched. “You’ve gotten a lot better,” she said with a smile. I honestly couldn’t agree more.

Now at clubs and semi-formals I fearlessly unleash everything I had learned. Not only that, but I enjoy it to no end. I dance for myself, and that’s the best part. For me, breakdancing isn’t a gimmick; I live for the dance. I’m not the best out there, not even close. But I realized that being the best wasn’t the important part.

Seasons will change and loves will come and go. But living in that fraction of time when all eyes are on you and that one perfect song is playing? Eternal, and damn priceless.

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