I deep-breathed my way through another boring mat class, I noticed
a gorgeous leg fly through the air in the hall behind me, a well-worn
jazz boot clothing the arched foot. 'Why would someone in a gym
wear a jazz boot?' I wondered.
politely patted my forehead dry and turned to exit the class as
a stream of sexy men and women poured into the studio beaming with
enthusiasm. The place was pounding with Salsa music and the warm-up
had begun before the door closed behind me. I got home and immediately
crossed off my Tuesday night mat class, scribbling "DANCE!"
in its stead.
a child, I loved my jazz classes. I had seen my body change from
a child with layers of baby fat to that of a woman's. so much of
my femininity and identity as a young woman was wrapped up in dance.
When I finally returned to dance after years of neglecting my body,
I weighed 200 pounds. In a studio full of spaghetti-limbed 16-year-olds,
I felt like the Elephant Man. I tried the class a few more times,
determined to lose weight, but the heavy burden of judgment only
added to my embarrassment as the class waited while I stumbled through
combinations. Each time I left the class, I cried alone in my car.
Dance was gone from me forever. I'd never get back to my old body
without dance: "the gym" was a foreign concept to me,
and in my state of absolute failure, I was unable to control my
I saw a casting ad for the TV show "The Discovery Health Body
Challenge", I was instantly intrigued. For 16 weeks, I would
receive personal training and a gym membership, as well as nutritional
advice. I got the call that I was cast and I was elated! If I got
healthy, I'd be dancing again!
I arrived for Sylviane's Tuesday night dance class at the gym, waves
of insecurity flooded over me. I was healthier for certain, but
still near 175 pounds and at 5'8" and a size 14. Would I be
able to keep up with the gym bunnies? Or would I fail again at it,
only to find myself choking on frustration and self-loathing?
smile came through the door before she did. Her class returned the
favor joyously, laughing and encouraging one another. The music
was deafening and the beat instantly got my pulse racing. I performed
the entire warm-up and was dripping with sweat. We began to work
on the combination and I could not wipe the smile from my face.
I was moving again! Everything was broken down in such a simple
way, and the music was so inspirational. I felt like a powerhouse
of motion and movement, mastering the steps and loving every moment
of it. I bounced through my front door that night just beaming with
satisfaction and joy.
subsequent class with Sylviane became easier as my body became stronger
and my mind adjusted to the moves. My extremely challenging thrice-weekly
personal training sessions became preparations for dance. I lunged
and squatted to exhaustion for my salsa turns; my ab work was now
about stopping on a dime. Everything I was doing during strength-training
and cardio related back to Tuesday night with Sylviane. The fact
that I never once felt condemned or judged by the class relates
directly back to our leader. Sylviane creates an electric environment
of suspended time where challenge and excitement meet encouragement
and positive reinforcement. Every person in the class is important
to Sylviane, and in all my years of dance, I have never experienced
that before. I have also never seen a dancer who looks like her
either. Most professional dance instructors are long and lean, a
condition of genetics, carrot sticks and cigarettes. Sylviane is
packed with sexy, sinewy muscle, a condition directly related to
her commitment to her health. That she has a body that I can emulate
without an eating disorder is a great inspiration to me.
you Sylviane, for the way you run your classes, the way you take
care of your body and for returning to me a love that I thought
I had lost forever!
the way, you can follow me through my weight loss on the show which
will air in January and again in March on the Discovery Health Channel.
There will be a special feature on Sylviane's class!