The Hardest Final I’ve Ever Taken

Usually, final exams are a pretty standard affair for me. Study, know my stuff, go in there and prove it on the test. Not this one. It’s easy to write things you know on a piece of paper, but it is a lot different to perform them.

Yeah, I’m sure you can see where this is going by now. It was a final for a dance class. The first dance class I’d ever taken, and what a ride it was. This was “Introduction to Argentine Tango,” a University College (“UCollege”) class. Students in Arts & Sciences can take one UCollege class per semester without additional tuition fees, and I couldn’t recommend them enough. Ones that I know of are the dance classes, an improv comedy class, and a nutrition class. They all meet after 6pm, so won’t conflict with regular classes.

Anyway, back to tango. This entire class was an accident. I had signed up for Foxtrot and Waltzes on a whim because I figured dance is a valuable life skill. The Foxtrot/Waltz class was on Thursday afternoon, but I happened to see the Th and read it to say T, so I showed up on Tuesday to the classroom and found myself in Tango. Luckily, I was able to find an awesome partner and enroll in the class (a lot of people will sign up alone, and the class is done with partners, so if you have a partner, you’re more likely to be able to get in/stay in the class).

I’m not going to lie, it was a very difficult class, especially for someone (me) with no dance experience. Argentine Tango is a bit of a curveball because there isn’t a standard “basic” dance that you can use as a building block for everything else. The entire thing is improvised. Luckily, we were taught a sort of basic, which we would use as a basic, but as our instructor told us repeatedly, tango is about improvising and going with the flow. I’m very used to structure, and this was really hard for me to wrap my head around. During most of the semester, I felt behind. As soon as I would learn a new move, we’d immediately learn another one. When we reviewed, I’d be the one asking to see how the move goes, just one more time.

Things did, however, finally come together, at the very end. Gosh, I guess they had to, given the nature of our final assignment. We were to perform a 2 minute piece, of any song we wanted. We were to choose every move, and to perform in front of the class. When I first heard this, I thought it was a joke. Hey, I’m just here to learn to dance, not be a dance performer, I thought.

So we met, and we choreographed, and we practiced. And practiced again, and again. Eventually things started to come together. Honestly, remembering the entire thing was a huge step for me. I was able to film it.

Now, the important part isn’t that suddenly I’m a professional dancer. The important part is that this class accomplished what I imagine true education is supposed to do: it broadened my horizons. This didn’t quite click with me until I found myself in my house, doing tango steps for fun because they happened to fit the song that was playing. Now, I’ll be enrolling in another dance class, and am considering checking out some of the ballroom dance clubs on campus. What a difference a single class can make.