At this point in my dancing life, I know what I like. I’m lucky if I dance twice a week, so I try to choose classes wisely. Here’s what I look for:
- Quick-moving. Slow classes were great when I was getting back into shape after having kids. Now they’re frustrating. My muscles get cold, the music is boring, and I have too much time to obsess over how old I look.
- Well-paced. My body can still do a lot if it’s warmed up gradually, exercises alternate between slow and fast, and the lesson explores all muscle groups.
- A contemporary approach to healthy technique. I love me some old-time modern dance and ballet technique. But don’t be a fundamentalist about teachings developed decades (or hundreds) of years ago. If teachers insist on tucking the pelvis or starting class with grand battements, I won’t be back.
- Fun, soulful music. Ninety minutes of plaintive singer-songwriter tracks? Yawn. ’90s club music, Manu Chao, the most dramatic bits of Swan Lake? Now I want to dance!
- Technically challenging yet emotionally warm. The “just-right” amount of challenge, plus plenty of encouragement and self-acceptance, lets me work productively without getting depressed by how much my body has changed.
- Mentally challenging—in moderation. I know, I know, Sudoku, reversing combinations, and counts of 7s and 13s are good for my brain. But let’s be honest: I just don’t have as much mental space available for dance class as I used to.
- Big, expressive combinations that let me be a drama queen. Dance is great (and cheap) therapy! A fun combination sends me off into the night happy and exhausted.
- Most important—a joyous, positive teacher. If dance class isn’t joyous, why go? When class is joyous, I don’t have to drag myself out of the house as my kids are climbing into bed. Instead I’m running out the door, excited to get there. That’s a good class—for me. —Tamsin Nutter
DSL associate editor Tamsin Nutter lives in Berkeley, California. Formerly a marketing writer at MoMA in NYC, she trained at Vassar College and The Ailey School and danced with Regina Nejman & Company and others.