Last night I had the best time in the dark. I went to a new fitness “class” called SOL Dance Experience. The web site describes SOL as “a LIGHTS OUT, free-form, hour-long Dance Experience for women of all fitness levels. Come find your light in the dark.”
I first heard about the experience from a fellow member of the Birmingham Girls Club. She left one of our meetings a little early one day to go try out this new dance class she’d heard about. I was immediately intrigued and asked for a recap. She told me later how much she loved it and it prompted me to check it out to possibly set up a private class for the Girls Club.
I wasn’t sure what to expect and was really quite nervous at that the thought of being in a completely dark room with total strangers for an hour. I don’t normally have high anxiety about those things or claustrophobia; it was more the unknown that freaked me out. Laura Gaines, the teacher and creator of SOL, greeted me with a huge smile and hug. She explained the “fireflies” on the floor – little bits of glow-in-the-dark tape placed throughout the room that help you know where your “space” is during the class. She also gave us instructions on how to get to the bathroom and exits, should we need it. You do have to sign a short waiver for the class, like most fitness regimens, so be sure to read it carefully. While there are no strobe lights or anything, it can get a bit unnerving adjusting to total darkness for the first few songs.
The ladies in the class welcomed me with open arms and prepared me for the fun time that was about to ensue. After Laura’s husband, Latham, finished putting up blackout curtains, we were asked to put cell phones on silent and away (completely, so they wouldn’t light up) and to cover Fitbits and other fitness watches with pieces of black tape she provided. Laura likes the time and space to be completely free from distractions so you can be your authentic self and move and feel however you like.
The lights went out and the music started. After slowly adjusting to the darkness and my “circle of power,” I finally let loose. I cannot begin to tell you how much fun I had! Every dance move you ever wanted to try was open to you. Every artist you ever wanted to imitate was available. Every song you ever wanted to try to sing you could. It was like the greatest karaoke bar and concert I never went to. You could sing to the upbeat, fun, dance songs and no one could hear you – the music was too loud. You could clap and yell and feed off each other’s energy even though you couldn’t see each other. Last night I busted out my Beyonce, Britney, Bruno, Tina, Elvis, Napoleon Dynamite, Carlton Banks, and even the Macarena (don’t tell anyone!). So many artists and movements popped out of me while I danced; I tried everything I had ever wanted to, but was too afraid for fear someone would see me and laugh.
Besides the amazing music selection, the other thing I loved about the class was that I could take a break any time I wanted and no one saw or judged. I get overheated pretty quickly and easily, so I took small breaks to catch my breath. I normally hate doing that in a class full of people because it’s so conspicuous. In this class, I could stop and let my feet or lungs rest any time I wanted and then get right back to it. Confession: I also got super sweaty and even took off my top for a few minutes to cool off. NO ONE KNEW!
The experience was completely out of my comfort zone and I almost left early on because of the darkness and anxiety that I felt not being able to see anything. But I took a few deep breaths, calmed my nerves, focused on my firefly, and the music took over. By the end of the evening, I had forgotten all about my fears earlier and couldn’t imagine not doing this as much as possible. I’m hooked!
Laura and her husband got the idea for SOL after living in New Zealand and going to a rave dancing with about 100 other people with glow sticks in the dark. She has always been a body movement advocate and loved the energy from the free form dancing. She brought the experience to Birmingham a few months ago and last night’s class was the 8th one she’s hosted. They are currently held every Tuesday evening from 7:30pm – 8:45 pm at Embody Practice Center on Montclair Road. The cost is $5 for first timers and $10 per class after that with discounts offered on multi-class packages. She’s planning on adding a Thursday evening class beginning in August. You can find out more information about SOL Experience and RSVP on their website at http://soldancex.com.
On the SOL Experience Facebook page, Laura recently wrote, “Tonight, after an amazing SOL Session, I realize part of the magic. At 7:30pm, women gather in the room. Some know each other, some are actual friends, most have never met. There’s chit chat, often nervous, unsure of what’s to come. Then, the lights go out, the music starts and each woman sets out on her own journey. In the darkness, liberated from any judgments, she is free to become whatever she wants. As the hour passes, the individual gets stronger. Confidence soars, endorphins rush. When the lights come back up, this group of individuals, now bonded by this unique experience, emerges as a tribe. Thank you, my tribe of SOL mates. I feel stronger for having danced with you.”
That describes it perfectly. I hope to NOT see you at SOL Dance Experience soon!