Editor’s Note: Vintage Pacific NW revisits some of our favorite stories from some of our favorite magazine contributors. Check back each week for timeless classics focusing on food (by Nancy Leson, Providence Cicero, and chefs Greg Atkinson and Kathy Casey), gardening (by Valerie Easton and Ciscoe Morris), fitness (from former Fit for Life writer Nicole Tsong), architecture (from former NW Living writer Lawrence Kreisman), wine (from local guru Andy Perdue) and more. 

Originally published April 28, 2013 
By Nicole Tsong, former Fit for Life writer

TWO DAYS AFTER a hip-hop dance class, I couldn’t get Rihanna’s song “Numb” out of my head.

I heard it at least a dozen times in one hour, and it is catchy. If only the dance moves I learned along with it had embedded themselves in my body the same way.

I got the idea to take a hip-hop class from an acquaintance who was head-over-heels for hers. I was a little nervous about it. My brain and body coordinate well most of the time; the main exception is dance choreography. I flounder when my arms, pelvis and feet are required to move in different directions at the same time.

But the all-levels hip-hop class at Velocity Dance Center on Capitol Hill looked as if it catered to dancers and untrained dancer types like me.

The packed evening class started off high-energy. Teacher Jaret Hughes put on music, and we warmed up behind him. He was easy to follow, and because some students were sporting cool street sneakers and stylish outfits, the spot felt like a brightly lit club.

After leading us in a series of stretches and a lot of fast-paced core work, Hughes took us through a few dance progressions, teaching us the sequences first on a slow count, then speeding it up. It was challenging but fun.

The dance to “Numb” started slowly enough. We swung our arms in circles. We spun 270 degrees on the balls of our feet. We rolled our hips. We jabbed our pointer fingers in different directions. We grabbed our collars. We popped elbows. We popped knees.

Then we took it up to speed. I tried to keep up as Hughes’ hair bobbed furiously, and he shouted, “Hit, hit!” “Step-ball-change!” and “Boom boom!” as he took us through the choreography.

Hughes added eight counts at a time, working us slowly through each full count before bringing us up to tempo with the music. We gasped, giggling, each time we watched him add more moves, and tried to keep up.

Then he kept adding more. And more.

After four eight-count sequences, my brain maxed out. I tried to signal Hughes telepathically — I had reached my choreography limit. Time to shut it down.

It didn’t work. He threw in more spins, some stomps and shoulder snaps. Thank goodness for repetition.

Finally, he split the class into groups of four. It was our moment to take the floor in front of the class and shine. Or, possibly, survive.

The dance, like the entire 90-minute class, flew by. I sweated, laughed and popped body parts I didn’t know could pop. I admired students with incredibly fluid hip rolls. I left feeling like I had a few new moves in my arsenal and a surefire way to light up my fitness routine.