After every 50-minute Modern Dance session I leave achy and sore. The class really comes back to haunt me every time I walk up from my Stewart Avenue apartment to campus and my legs quiver. After the first few classes my muscles felt like Neo after he comes out of the Matrix into the “real world” and asks Morpheus why his eyes hurt. Morpheus somberly replies, “you’ve never used them before.” Twice a week I subject myself to what during the fact seems like a form of physical torture. Flexing and pointing toes, holding legs raised, twisting my hips, all the while keeping my chin up and back straight. The class is just a constant reminder of how inflexible I am and how weak and unused many of my muscles are. At points when we are instructed to move a certain limb whilst maintaining another position I can barely do, I feel like I am playing a game of Twister with a sadist holding the spinner. Despite all this however, it is in fact one of the most rewarding classes I have taken at Cornell. I leave each session feeling rejuvenated and a sense of accomplishment akin to banging out a 20-page paper I was entirely unprepared to write.
When I tell people that I am taking dance this semester they usually give me an incredulous smirk or ask me if I am being serious. This should not surprise me, since out of a class of 25 I am only one of four guys and everybody in the class is as surprised as my incredulous friends that we are there. I did not, as some have suggested, take this class to meet cute girls (besides the fact that I have a girlfriend, any interest a girl may have in me would be immediately erased once they saw me flailing around the studio with all the grace of a wounded gorilla). Nor am I taking dance in order to prepare for an Oscar turn in which I whimper a lot and make out with Mila Kunis.
Then why am I taking this class that is both physically grueling and apparently abnormal for men? I know full well that I am not going to be “good” at dancing by any measure, but I have no interest in that anyway. I am taking this class purely as a form of self-betterment and exploration. It is incredibly freeing to take a class whose goals are entirely self-directed and the outcome is utterly irrelevant. If college is a time for exploration and experimentation, then I am taking dance for the same reason I took Intro to Acting my sophomore year or Modern Literature my junior year; to go out of my comfort zone, to challenge myself in ways that I will likely not be able to once I graduate, to enter a completely foreign environment and not feel embarrassed or judged. If, as our conveniently non-latin motto states, Cornell is the institution where “any person can find instruction in any study,” then any person should also be able and encouraged to try everything there is to study.
Obviously Dance specifically is not for everyone and I am sure many in the class would argue that it is definitely not for me. However it is important that while at Cornell you take a class like it, something that isn’t in your major, that might not be a requirement, that many people might say is useless and a waste of time. Everybody has had that moment during the scramble to find classes for the next semester, when they stumble upon a class that is completely outside of their interests and have a sudden urge and attraction to it. Obviously there are many time constraints and work loads to consider, but it is important to treat yourself. Learn for the sake of learning. We will all have plenty of time to focus on our soul-sucking career paths once we graduate, so use this opportunity you have essentially already paid for to maybe do a little soul-searching. Don’t limit yourself to what you want future employers to see on your transcript; regardless, you can always take the class pass/fail.
Dan Rosen is a senior in the College of Art, Architecture, and Planning. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Smell the Rosen appears alternate Wednesdays this semester.
Original Author: Dan Rosen