Steps and the City: A day of class, dance & travel

A "Tale from Reading" by Alexis Horn '04 and Stephanie Rivers

The opportunity to dance in London, provided by Randolph-Macon is an incredible privilege. Dancers of all levels in the Reading program can take advantage of the city of London while improving their skill at any studio. At least, that is the over-simplified version of the experience.

The night before: You scroll through the Pineapple and The Place dance studio websites and make notes of the dance classes you desire to take.

9:30 A.M. After wiping the crusties from your eyes, you sit down with a pad and pen anticipating the morning’s lecture. Mr. George McCarty from London flips through overhead slides explaining the architecture of Inigo Jones or the irony of a Hogarthian scene featuring a notorious brothel in Covent Garden. In your mindscape you travel back centuries and lose your self in the scholar’s lecture until the hour is up.

11:00 A.M. You desperately search through all your trouser pockets hoping to find a one pound coin and madly dash to catch the bus 17. You sit on the top level as a ritual; the experience is impossible in the United States. The double-decker teeters, yet you manage to apply a clean coat of lipstick. When you reach the train station, you shuffle through the business suits, the cannon of ticket machines, and a pram of triplets. Finally, you grande jetter onto a train bound for London Paddington, knowing that will be the last time you move for the next twenty-five minutes until you arrive in the great city of London.

12:50 P.M. Everything echoes in Paddington Station, and its daily functions follow the London beat. The engines, the whistles, the patent leather shoes running down platforms, the silence of a clandestine pick-pocket overwhelm your senses. Paddington station is colder than the outside air, and you wonder how. 70p buys you a newspaper. £1.20 buys you a croissant. Let’s see, last night you chose the Pineapple. Your finger traces the tube map, and you will head to Covent Garden.

Covent Garden in London Covent Garden in London is always a center of activity"

2:00 P.M. Outside Covent Garden station you can stroll down the streets of history wedged between Americanized fashion stores. The place where the muffin man once lived on Drury Lane now houses a Starbucks. The foot traffic seems not to notice the beautiful architecture you imagined in seminar, but it leaves you with a gaping mouth.

3:00 P.M. £5.00 cover charge and you enter the doors of the pink florescent Pineapple Dance Studio; “survival of the fittest,” or at least that’s what the slogan boasts. The stairway smells of hot spandex, deodorant, and worm floor enamel. You make your way to the dressing rooms where nude bodies gear up for their discipline. Some slip on tights and arrange their hair in a bun, others tighten bandannas around their heads and lace their trainers. You smile at the different folks with different strokes and wonder what life is like in the other classes.

3:15 P.M. You prance up to your studio on the third floor and observe the professional dancers finish class. A cutie at the corner barre wearing a London Royal Ballet crew shirt catches your eye with his effortless grace. You jaw drops now, and then again when the ballerinas perform a small piece with seemingly unattainable skill.

3:30 P.M. Everyone rushes in, throws their bags by the piano, and claims a space to stretch. The talking and laughing dies down when the instructor enters with a knowing smile and bellows, “All right people lets do it!” Class begins. For the next hour and a half you savor the day’s ultimate treat.

5:00 P.M. As you change into your street clothes, glowing from a fabulous class, you ponder what you could do next. It is pitch black outside and London begins to show signs of its nightlife. Indian restaurants prepare for hungry customers, women change into their stiletto boots, and all you need to decide is whether to turn left or right. Basically, the city of London is yours until the midnight train returns to Reading. And the best part of it all ….you return to your house on Whiteknights Road flushed from all the excitement, only to fill out a slip for a full refund of all the costs.