Writer and closet dancer Jaclyn Geier goes on a date with DDPP-Akron
This isn’t how I usually enjoy my Friday evenings: Wearing yoga pants and dancing in a dimly lit, unfamiliar room amongst women I don’t know. But this is exactly how I found myself the first Friday of 2015. It was Dance Dance Party Party-Akron’s first meeting of the new year and my first ever.
The Akron chapter of Dance Dance Party Party is one of more than 20 around the world (DDPP is global, yo) and it’s among the oldest. Every charter is guided by same three rules—No boys. No booze. No judgment.—to make each party a safe haven for women who love to dance but dislike night clubs. Lights are kept low and the music loud. There are no instructors or choreographed routines, just dancing—for fun, exercise and release.
As someone who loves to dance but rarely has the opportunity, I was really excited about DDPP-Akron and recruited my friend, Amy, who is never more than one Madonna song away from creating her own dance party. (I admire this approach to dance, as I am lacking in confidence to do so.)
We arrived early at Martell’s School of Dance, a second-story studio above Angel Falls and Highland Square Pharmacy where one of the den mothers, Juniper Sage, greeted us at the top of the stairs. We waited on a bench in a brightly lit hall with advertisements for dance costumes and pictures of dancers. A few minutes later, when the rest of the group arrived together, Juniper ushered us into the dance studio, a long room lined with windows and mirrors and shiny wooden floors. Juniper stepped to the front to explain DDPP procedure. Primarily, the “no judgment” rule.
“Don’t judge others, don’t judge yourself,” she said calmly.
I hadn’t considered applying this rule to myself before, but I immediately realized how ignoring it would change my experience considerably. As someone who is harshly critical of herself, dancing in front of a mirror for an hour could otherwise cause problems.
When the music, a compilation created by a different DDPP member each week, began to play, we warmed up and stretched. By the start of the second song, the dancing began. Everyone danced in their respective places, apart from one another. At first, this was difficult. I had never danced independently in a room full of people. Especially aware of my reflection, I learned how much elbow movement is involved in my dancing.
But then, after the third song, I fell into the energy of the room, of those who were not concerned with their elbows and were truly dancing for the fun of it. We were not dancing together; we were each dancing in a room together—an independent action, yet a shared experience.
Between songs, everyone applauded as we waited to be carried back to wherever it is we had danced. At the end of the hour, I was relaxed, and I felt very much like I had just finished a cycling class.
It was liberating. It was exhausting. It was beautiful.
DDPP was not entirely what I expected; it was better. Like a Zumba class that fell into a fabulous kind of anarchy through which these women were connecting with a forgotten version of themselves. The adults dancing in that darkened studio seemed to return to the freedom that I typically associate with childhood. Before spending an hour with them, I didn’t realize how much I missed that feeling myself.
Jaclyn Geier is a creative nonfiction writer currently enrolled in the NEOMFA program. She lives in the Akron area with her husband Alex and their two rescue pets: a nervous dog named Mia and a confused cat named Nora. She loves reading, yoga, thinking about Tina Fey, The Lockview’s grilled cheese sandwiches, tea, and exploring the national parks with Alex and Mia.