There’s no doubt that I’m uncoordinated on a dance floor. I love to let my feet run loose on a Friday night - but my skills don’t quite match my passion.
When I told some friends that I’d been invited out to a dance class in London’s west end, I could see the smirk cracking on their faces, “but you can’t dance!” I guess the dance-floor flamingo - as some of them call me - was the last person they would expect to see trying to follow a dance routine.
As part of their 'We're Open' campaign, Smirnoff have hooked up with a dude called Chris Fonseca, a deaf dancer specialising in street style dance, and put together a lesson for a few of us try out... I figured it’s never too late to take on something new, and was super excited to get involved.
I couldn’t really imagine how someone dances to music they can’t hear, so I was really interested to hear Chris’ story, learn his techniques and see him perform.
Walking into the studio, I was immediately impressed with the space. Dance Works includes 5 levels of huge timber-floored rooms, filled with people dancing, doing fitness and making music. It’s amazing, energetic vibe was a nice reminder to why I was attracted to the awesome city of London in the first place.
It wasn’t long before Chris had us warming up (yep – sweat dripping down my face in 30 seconds) and on the floor learning a routine. Slightly intimidated at first, Chris told us to let go of our inhibitions, and it wasn’t long before I loosened up. He probably regretted saying that once he saw my long limbs flying about.
The whole time I was dancing (... trying to at least), I was conscious that Chris was leading a crew of 8 with absolutely no ability to hear the music that we were dancing to.
Telling us that he’d learned his timing by feeling the beats through vibrations, it was pretty incredible to see – not only his amazing talent - but also his pure passion for the thing he loves to do.
Halfway through the session, Chris pulled out his new favourite toy, which he thinks will completely change the way deaf people interact with music. We were given noise-cancelling headphones and strapped up with SubPacs. Basically, this thing is a subwoofer that you wear as a backpack - and it’s incredible.
Stepping back onto the dance floor with baseline tremors blasting through my body was a whole new experience altogether. Suddenly I was dancing to music using purely vibration, and suddenly I could appreciate how amazing this would be for a deaf dancer like Chris.
A panting, hot and sweaty mess, but with the ability to string a few sentences together, I managed to have a chat with Chris after the session. He explained to me that he was at first going to become a graphic designer, but stumbled upon street style dance purely because a friend of his told him to give it a try.
From the first session, he told me, he knew he’d found a new passion and it wasn’t long before he was putting all his time into the deaf dancing community.
Hearing how other people discover their passion, and then make a career out of it, is a good reminder to never stop searching, exploring and experiencing. Life’s simply too short to be doing something you don’t love.
I may have been the lankiest, most uncoordinated man at Dance Works, but if I’d said no to this random dance lesson, I’d have had missed out on a lot of fun, and meeting a super-inspiring dude.
Thanks loads to Smirnoff, SubPac, Dance Works, and of course Chris Fonseca, for such a fun morning. With Smirnoff now providing Chris with a space at Husky Studios each month, I can’t wait to get back to give it another go. Kicking off on the 27th of May, if you’re in London, get down there and check it out too.