A rhythmically challenged person’s guide to UC Berkeley’s free dance classes

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Anna Beth Nolan/Staff

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Some people are born dancers, and others … not so much.

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But there is hope! Turns out UC Berkeley offers a number of free and rhythmically-challenged-friendly dance classes. All classes welcome beginners and can be attended on a drop-in basis. So if you utterly embarrass yourself after one class, you can scurry back into your shell and never show up again. No judgment.

So which dance workshops are the easiest for beginners? The Daily Clog attended various classes to find out. You’re welcome.

Zumba

Difficulty: 1/3

Chances are you’ve heard of Zumba by now. This Latin-influenced dance-fitness craze has long been a favorite, and UC Berkeley students really seem to like it too. Believe it or not, Zumba is not as dorky as its TV advertisements make it seem. It definitely has that instructor-video-type feel to it, and dance steps are often more about cardio than skill (this is a good thing). The most complicated steps you’ll have to learn are a simple cha-cha and salsa.

Honestly, it’s just a lot of fun — and the music is damn catchy, too. The typical Zumba playlist includes Latin beats as well as popular pop and hip-hop music.

Classes are held in Hearst Gymnasium and the RSF, and they are free to RSF members. Check out the RSF’s weekly schedule for details.

Charleston

Difficulty: 2/3

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The Charleston is one of those dances that’s just useful to know. Now you won’t feel embarrassed the next time you take a trip to West Egg for a party at Gatsby’s mansion. Though the Charleston is definitely the bee’s knees, it does require a little more coordination than a beginner might be comfortable with. There is some counting involved, and it’s hard to keep “steps” and “half steps” straight in your head. Add partners into the mix, and it gets even more confusing. But if you’re up for the challenge, then go for it. After you master the basic steps, you can start improvising your own. Just don’t expect to master everything in one sitting. Luckily, this class is small enough that dance instructors Raul and Casey can give you lots of individualized attention.

Last chance to attend this workshop is next Wednesday from 7 to 8 p.m. in Wheeler Hall. But don’t worry: Cal Ballroom offers other free workshops throughout the year.

Swing

Difficulty: 2.5/3

Lindy on Sproul has been teaching Cal students how to swing dance since the ’90s. Like the Charleston and other old-timey dances, swing does require a fair amount of coordination. You’re inevitably going to be owned up by all of the more experienced dancers who regularly attend Lindy on Sproul. The trick is to concentrate on having fun and not staring wistfully at the pros.

Downside: You will look pretty lame compared to them. Upside: You will look super adorable despite your beginner awkwardness. Just look at these guys:

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Adorable.

Free swing dance lessons are every Saturday from 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Upper Sproul Plaza. Social dances are held after every lesson until 2:30 p.m.

Cardio hip-hop

Difficulty: 2/3

Best. Class. Ever. This class has a diverse mix of beginner, intermediate and experienced dancers who, despite their varying dance levels, are all clearly having a blast.  Each class starts off with a cardio dance workout followed by choreography. If the word “choreography” makes you break out in a cold sweat, have no fear. The choreography is simple enough to be easily followed but challenging enough to make you feel like you are actually learning something. Instructor Momo Lebeau takes it slow, gradually adding to the choreography so that you can easily pick it up.

In this class, skill matters less than attitude. If you lack the skill, you can compensate by emoting your personal brand of aggressiveness and sexiness. “I try to keep it as free as possible,” instructor Momo says.

This class is held every Monday and Friday from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the RSF. It is free for RSF members.

Tease dance

Difficulty: 3/3

Though billed as “Tease Dance,” this class’s alternate name, “Power Pop Dance,” more accurately describes it. Tease dance is probably the most intense cardio workout of all the aforementioned dance classes. The choreography, though easy enough for moderately coordinated individuals, is taught at a pace that is nearly neck-breaking for those of us who don’t have any skills. In a dance hall full of people, you won’t be able to get individualized help, either.

Instructor Cat Kung does have great energy, however, which you can feed off if you are struggling. We suspect this class’s dance moves come easier with practice. If you decide to drop in on a class, you might want to stay in the back so as to avoid standing out.

Classes are every Sunday from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the RSF. They are free to RSF members.

Not everyone is a born dancer, but you’ll definitely learn a few tricks after browsing these classes. Be prepared to wow your friends with dance moves way more impressive than your go-to fist pump and half-assed running man. But if none of these classes particularly appeal to you, consider visiting these other dance classes offered by the RSF: Cardio Dance, Nia, Booty Beat and Afro-Cuban Dance.

Contact Lilia Vega at [email protected].