Notes from the first two weeks of classes, part 3

I almost didn’t go to the semester 3 boys’ dance class. It was held on Thursday and by that time I was already sufficiently tired and discouraged. I had scheduled a couple of days with two dance classes in them and I couldn’t imagine how that was going to work when we weren’t talking about syllabi.

But, even more concerning, was the semester 3 girls’ class. The teacher had closed the first session by rattling off a series of dance step names, most of which I didn’t recognize, and telling us that we’d have to have that memorized for the next class. With music.

Only two things prevented me from dropping right out of that class. Despite the fact that the main teacher terrified me, I knew that one of the other teachers was on my side. I’d been introduced to her several weeks ago by an Indonesian girl and though things had been awkward at first, they were working themselves out. Secondly, I’ve already learned the dance for this semester. It’s UKJGS’s go-to performance piece, and though I’ve never actually performed it, I’ve practiced it so many times that it’s the only dance I can say with any sort of confidence that I know. Or at least I knew it three months ago. But three months isn’t that long for a dance you once knew cold. Or so I keep telling myself.

Denial aside, I really should be able to handle the girls’ dance class. The boys’ dance class, however, I was not at all sure about. I’ve learned boy dancing a little bit and I really like it, but I haven’t studied it nearly as seriously as girl dancing. And if, like the girls’ dance class, the method of learning was going to be go-home-and-memorize it, then there was no way things were going to work out.

On my way out of campus, though, I ran into one of my Darmasiswa compatriots who said he was going to the class. It was the first day, so I figured I could always go and then back out afterward.

Ten minutes into the class, that was exactly what I wanted to do. After the usual pleasantries, the teacher launched into a description of the semester: two classes to learn one dance, two classes to learn another dance, random selection of one of those two dances, one week to make it good, exam. Exam meaning perform the dance all by yourself.

I explained all this to the other foreigner in the class—a guy from Mexico. While doing this, I let my fear show in my expression. Usually—especially in Indonesia—I try to keep emotional displays in check. The best way to know if I’m feeling any sort of strong emotion is to check to see if I’ve gotten quiet or not. In this case, though, I wasn’t planning on coming back, so I figured no problem—I’d let the teacher see some of just how intimidated I was.

This was when the unexpected happened. The teacher proceeded to tell us not to worry, and not just the class in general, but the Mexican guy and me specifically. He suggested that we come to the other class1 as well, to get extra practice. Then he looked at the other students. “These guys are in your class too,” he told them. “When you get together to practice, you need to tell them too.”

I admit that I was shocked. And I knew right then that this was a class I was going to stay in no matter what. That kind of encouragement and inclusion is invaluable to poor, struggling foreigners like me. Yes, I’m not really qualified for the class, but the teachers are actually happy to see me in it.

1In Indonesian universities, incoming freshmen classes in each department are typically split up into Class A, Class B, etc. The students in each class attend all of the same classes at the same time.

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