Photographer first-year ain’t Nothin’ But a Cutie

A susceptibility to coercion is generally undesirable. I qualify my statement because my attendance of Saturday’s Nothin But Cuties (NBC) dance workshop, entirely due to the insistence of certain anonymous peers, proved to be far more than the amusing and broadening experience I’d anticipated. Having already proven my innate inability to dance on numerous occasions, I figured that the complete foreignness of an NBC dance workshop would, at the very least, make for a hilarious experience whose account would be suitable for a short features piece. However, succumbing to peer pressure made for far more than a trivial anecdote. Being compelled to attend the NBC dance workshop was not only extraordinarily fun but also presented an educational experience I’d have found nowhere else at Williams, not even in crowded and slightly sketchy campus dance parties.

The workshop opened with participants introducing themselves. Reassuringly, a few were already familiar with the routine we were about to learn. Most were there, to paraphrase one senior, “to learn some moves before graduating.” Most gratifying was the presence of a pre-frosh, who, like myself, attended “simply to try something new.”

The introductions were followed by a 15-minute warm-up routine. I laughed when I paled in comparison to far more lithe participants during stretching exercises; this was an exercise in self-deprecating humor, no? Yet as the warm-ups progressed from stretching to performing rather salacious “hood walks,” I found that I was actually genuinely enjoying myself. I no longer mockingly laughed at my ridiculous attempts to maintain a “fly-ass” gait. My self-consciousness became irrelevant; releasing my inhibitions I spiraled into the dancing b-boy that I never was.

The warm-ups soon ended, and I eagerly anticipated learning some kickin’ new moves. Led by Hayley Brooks ’12, we embarked on learning a series of steps to Nelly’s “Party People.” The routine started simply enough but soon became mired in a series of insanely intricate quarter-note steps. I would have simply laughed at my failure a mere hour before, but now the fun came from actually learning the step. Although I cannot claim to execute it (or any of the steps) with any elegance, I felt satisfied with a perfunctory knowledge.

Sadly, fatigue got the better of me soon thereafter. I would have loved to continue and learn the steps to the entire chorus (who can resist Fergie’s dramatic entrance on the next verse?) but my aching muscles and tendons insisted otherwise. It was time to assume my more customary role as photo editor. This was rather sobering, as much of the fun I’d been having participating in something completely alien quickly vanished. I did not want to return to a normal routine, not just yet at least.

Why did I expect to derive all of my fun at the workshop from my laughably poor attempts at executing complex dance moves far beyond my abilities? Why was I so surprised when I found that my enjoyment came not from self-deprecation but from a genuine enjoyment of encountering something far removed from my ordinary experiences? Had my life become too routine, my activities too far embedded in an artificially demarcated comfort zone? While a single NBC workshop did not grant me the ability to execute perfect pops or booty rolls, it reminded me that thinking of certain personal qualities as “innate” is obtusely limiting.