Sunday, February 8, 2009

Dancing in Covent Garden

A friend and I turned down a small alley in Covent Garden and spotted the pink neon sign we were looking for. It read: Pineapple Dance. We pushed open the glass door, walked up to the receptionist and asked where the one o'clock jazz class was. He pointed to the studio behind the desk (two others lined the hall we had just walked through) and he directed us downstairs to the women's dressing room.

I had no idea what to expect Friday afternoon. But, I will attest that dance is the universal language. In the loudest voice I have heard since arriving in London, my teacher counted out the same stretches, steps and sit-ups I have done in classes in Barrington, Syracuse, Chicago and New York City. In the front of the class stood the regulars -- the ones who knew every repetition -- but beyond that, ages and experience levels jumped all over the page. As soon as we started doing pirouettes and turning triplets, I felt at home.

After class, my friend and I checked out the neighborhood. We wandered through a tea shop where customers could mix their own blends, a toy store, plenty of boutiques and the open-air market. Mesmerized, we stopped to watch two street performers. One could limbo under a pole about a foot off the ground and the other balanced on his hands, with his feet above his head on a set of three blocks he had stacked on top of a footstool. We stopped for a warm cappuccino and enjoyed the chance to get off our feet.

Saturday morning, I attempted a new running route. When I thought I should have been passing Big Ben, I found myself running by Hyde Park (not at all near each other). Again, I need to remember London is not on a grid -- exploring these winding roads can get one into trouble. So, the run was a little longer than planned, but on the upside, I ran by Buckingham Palace.

I joined some friends and a history professor Saturday afternoon for a brisk walk around my neighborhood. Talent is in the streets. If I had lived a few years back, Charles Dickens and Virginia Woolfe would have been my neighbors. We also found one of the first orphanages in the world (where Handel himself used to perform "The Messiah" for the children every year at Christmas).

Later that evening my friends and I went out for Thai food. Unaccustomed to restaurant etiquette in London, we sat chatting at the table for about twenty minutes after we finished dinner before we realized we needed to ask our waitress for our bill (there's no rushing diners out of London restaurants).

I spent a laid back Sunday visiting family -- my second cousin and his family. Being welcomed into a warm house for a delicious dinner with familiar faces was an appreciated break from my hectic London schedule. After a full dinner, fruit, tea, biscuits and lots of catching up, I bode farewell. En route back to my flat, I walked across Abbey Road, made famous by the Beatles '69 album cover. After a full weekend in London, I had plenty of laundry and reading to catch up on before snuggling into bed.

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