I can't dance, so usually I don't even try. I rely on that awkward sway that keeps so many of us unsure dancers safe, hips side-to-side, elbows locked at 90 degrees.
What I can do, though, is exercise. I live for the cardio burn, the feeling of totally mentally losing myself in an athlete's challenge.
Then, I heard about the cult-like Vixen Workout. The 60-minute cardio dance class, lauded by local news anchors who look like they do Jane Fonda workout videos on the weekend, comes straight out of the clubs of Miami.
As a bonus, newbies can burn up to 400 to 600 calories in an hour. That's just insane enough to make me try it.
I made a last-minute plea to a longtime buddy who Irish dances -- at least she understands choreography -- and took my chances on a Vixen class in a dance studio near Times Square.
First, there was the outfit. I was sensibly and stylishly dressed in brightly colored leggings, a t-shirt and my trusty FlyKnit 4.0s. The website, which I'd nervously checked from my desk, recommended wedge sneakers. What the hell? Where do you even buy those? I decided it must be a joke.
Upon arriving at the studio, it was clear wedge sneakers are for sale somewhere on the vast expanse of Internet. Nearly everyone wore sexy leggings and flannels tied at the waist. Like a belly dancer's sequined wrap, the shirts amplified and exaggerated every hip movement.
New York City is notorious for its expensive niche classes full of thin white ladies, but I was pleasantly surprised to see this $18 session had wrangled women of almost every skin color, age and body type. I found the few ladies also in athletic apparel, and clung to them.
When the music started, the 20-person class jumped into action. There was never any instruction I could hear, just high-tempo remixes of Top 40 rap favorites. The instructor, as far as I could tell, was the girl at the front with wild, Shakira-worthy curls down loose and a hip pop that makes me wonder what I've been doing all this time.
She launched into the kind of choreo usually reserved for Beyoncé, and we followed suit en masse. In minutes, sweat beads formed as we twerked, hopped and high-kneed our way through the song. Now I understand how Bey "woke up like this" -- her actual job is just burning calories for extended periods of time. Mine, on the other hand, is to sit like the a hunchback over a keyboard all day.
I couldn't dream of following the instructor's moves, but my body jerked and sluggishly hopped behind her. The genius of the Vixen Workout is that you can't take your eyes off the instructor, so you virtually never watch your own reflection in the mirrors. In the heat of the moment, my brain assumed I had to be doing the same motions with the exact intensity of the instructor.
Who says lying to yourself is problematic?
Somewhere between "Run The World (Girls)" and "Sorry," I stripped off my sticky t-shirt. The mirrors were too fogged for me to make eye contact with my belly, anyway. We bounced up, bounced sideways, even slid to the floor on all fours and arched our backs. It didn't matter, because it was just us girls practicing our moves the way we used to do in slumber parties, behind closed doors.
As we concluded, the instructor rounded us up for a final chanted chorus of what I can only call the Vixen creed:
I'm a hunger posin', kitten stretchin', Rick Ross rappin', Beyonce lovin', Nikki twerkin' vixen. And damn, I look good for Monday night!
Then, of course, we posed for a sweaty victory photo, high off the endorphins that come from pushing your body into overdrive. It certainly didn't feel like the beginning of the week anymore.
So, now I'm a member of the Vixen Army. I'll be back on weeks when work's a drag and I need to feel like I'm at the club and in the gym simultaneously.
It's all the fun of a night out, without the hangover.