experiment: new york, new york

here it is. my one thousand word photo-essay of the city where i lived, i loved, i learned, i alliterated. it was difficult to narrow it down to an image that captured the city as I saw it and would like to remember it, but this one really slams it on its enormous, schizophrenic head. trying to reduce new york to just one image initially seemed impossible. but what is more improbable is trying to do the place justice. you know how awesome it is, you've been there, you've seen, you've experienced how it felt, and how, inexplicably you just feel different there (assuming you didn't spend all your time in midtown). i don't need to harp on about it or list all the reasons it's the second greatest city on earth (sorry, new york, old york still takes the cake, or trifle? london, see.) ah, city livin'.

what i have learned:

place is important. but people (like two fancy old friends or two sunning lovers) make the place, and though lots of my proper-noun-loves are still in new york, what can i say - i left my heart in provo. for however much i fought it, person eventually trumps place. check.
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experiment: hip hop ononomous

so there's this friend of mine--a state champion, collegiate gymnast. she can do things with her arms and legs that i consider impossible for most bipeds. she recently came to visit and wanted to check out a dance class while in town.

"dance class? that sounds fun! like ballet? argentine tango? highland jig?. . . . hip hop? . . . . um. . . . you know, on second thought, my doctor advised me against putting undue lateral pressure or movement on my ankle, so i may have to pass." (pansyfied truth, but truth nonetheless.)

justified, right? hip hop is one of the few genres i feel completely debilitates me. i'm at a dance party, i'm going strong to some inxs or css, and then - smack! - metaphorical brass knuckles to the face! how do i move my arms? how do i move my legs? what do i do with my butt! quick!! what do i do with my butt!! and what about my cardigan? can i swing it around my head like a helicopter--would that be cool? a mid-air cardigan-swing?

(refresher: i am the girl who in 9th grade uttered the infamous, "so, is there a girl in Ja Rule?" smart, huh? look, i know what OPP is (and am definitely not down with it) and can rattle off the lyrics to "shoop" like the fourth member of the group, who i like to think would've been a Latina called Paprika, but that is about it. want to have a debate about East coast vs west coast rap, or about Biggy Smalls vs Biggy Biggins? I will warm the forensic bench and watch you work it, flip it and reverse it.)

And the thought of going with Splits Pommelhorse to a breaking class? confidence-breaking.
as far as dance is concerned, she's darren's dance grooves, and i'm a stake road show waiting to happen.

"but adrienne," said the petit quadridexterate," this is an experiment. you always like trying things out."

word, ken-dawg. i'm down with science. let's do it.

not knowing what to wear, and not having any appropriate attire even if i had, i put on my running clothes. no not the fancy new york ones--skin-tight and anti-gravity, but the old cross country tee and soccer shorts. she looked a little more hip hop than me in baggy green pants and a tank top, but not by too much. i was feeling up to the occasion.

the class, a weekly session in a old studio near union square, was taught by, get this, Angel.

angel feliciano. choreographer to the stars. he's big time. been on mtv. worked with J.Lo, people. he came in, introduced himself to the newbies (most were recurring characters, ones who looked like they belonged) and wasted no time getting us "loose."

i jockeyed for position in the back, as close to the door as possible. facing the mirror, he looked into it and back at me, silently calling me on my back-row cowardice. eek, not a good way to get in cherub's graces. he turned on his music machine and out poured the sickening smooth of usher raymond. this song. and everyone started dancing. and it looked really good. all 12 or so of them looked like BET all stars. i stood there, rocking inward on my sauconys and fidgeting with my ponytail. i felt like lance bass at the playboy mansion. i felt like the girl who likes metaphors but doesn't ever have the patience to dig for the right one.

"ok, y'all. let's slow this waaaay down," angel said, answering my prayers. "from the top."

he proceeded to go through each step, slowed down sufficiently, so even i could get it. after teaching the new kids on the block about 16 bars or so, we'd stop, turn on the song from the beginning and run through the new routine. the regulars looked bored. in spite of everything, it was unexpectedly fun. though i did hamper my progress because of my intense focus on each individual move and not on the collective seamlessness of the routine. i looked jerky. i looked a little square-dancey. and catching a glimpse of my own reflection in the mirror, was making an extremely square-dancey face. maybe, i said to myself, it's because i'm just a beginner.

looking right to Balance Beam Betty, i deflated. she had it down to a science. stupid quick learner.

after finally learning the first 30 seconds or so and feeling comfy enough to move up near the middle of the floor, i suddenly saw a blip appear on my confidence meter! haha, you tricky dancers, i too have learned your steps! but before i could fully revel in my ability to mimic and memorize, angel stepped it up a notch. crap.

the second half of the class was spent in a desperate attempt to just keep up, not even trying to learn anything new. legs and arms flailed about, cascades of sweat falling over the "Sha" and "sion" of my Shawnee Mission shirt. and sauconys? the completely WRONG shoes to wear. most dancers in the class were wise to the fact that you need to wear something with a bare sole for smooth sliding across the wood floor. hey, i'm learning. then finally, after 35 minutes of making me feel simultaneously pumped and depressed, angel called it quits.

"for those of y'all who are new, come say hi before you take off." (he was super nice, i gotta say that much).

Gymnastia and i obediently trotted over to the front of the studio.

"I'm Naturally Talented," she said, outstretched hand.

"I'm from Kansas" I offered, only later realizing this wasn't a name but an apology.

what i have learned:

Hip hop = hard. If you can't pop or lock, you're going to look a fool trying to dance in a hip hop class. Learn fundamentals of those first.

Hip hop = fun. I even liked the Usher song at the end, and the two of us kept breaking out in our dance routine on the N train.

And be sure to catch me on my new reality TV show this fall, "So You Don't Think You Can Dance, Fatty Fatpants?" starring Me, Bruce Vilanch, and Elaine Benes!
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