On the kind of gray, subzero day in February that makes you wonder if you’ll ever leave your house again, I bundled up and headed to a small dance studio in Chicago’s North Center neighborhood. A friend had tipped me off to a different kind of dance class, one with no routine to learn and no leader to follow. As a long-time lover of dance with zero aptitude for choreography, I was intrigued. Once inside the studio I was greeted warmly by a group of women in t-shirts and sweatpants. A few minutes later the lights went out, a lava projector clicked on, and the music started thumping.
This was how I discovered Dance Dance Party Party Chicago—an all female, freestyle dance class. Freestyle as in there are no dance moves. Just a one-hour playlist of dance music (which changes every week and is provided by participants), and your own uninhibited imagination.
The three rules of Dance Dance Party Party—“no boys, no booze, and no judgment of yourself or anyone else”—make it a world away from the bar/club scene. And unlike a traditional dance class, the lack of choreography (and the ability to forgo spandex) eradicates any feelings of competition. The focus here is on fun. The amazing workout you get from an hour of dancing just happens to be a fantastic bonus.
I’ll admit, dancing by yourself in a room full of strangers feels a little weird at first. But by the third song I realized that no one was looking at me, and in fact the wilder and more daring women got with their dance moves, the more they were cheered on. After my nerves melted away, my stress followed, and by the time Prince’s “Black Sweat” came on I felt euphoric.
At the end of the hour the studio was steamy as a sauna and my legs felt like I’d just run a marathon—but not even the fierce February wind could wipe the smile from my face. I hadn’t known anyone there when I arrived, but I left feeling like I had a dozen new friends. I went back the next week, and the week after that. I loved it so much I eventually became one of the volunteers who keep it running.
At just five dollars a session, DDPP Chicago is cheaper than a gym or a yoga class. The dance parties are held twice a week: Wednesday from 7-8 p.m. and Sunday from 4-5 p.m., with the number of participants ranging from 6 to 30. All ages and fitness levels are welcome, and no dance experience is necessary. Dance Dance Party Party Chicago even bends the first of their rules from time to time, hosting a co-ed event twice a year for charity so that the men can get down, too. Visit their blog for more information.
Thank you to guest writer Kelley Clink, who has been living and writing in Chicago for the past 11 years. Visit her website at www.kelleyclink.com.