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    The hiphop dance class I enrolled in to work off new Christmas poundage was not supposed to turn out this way. Perhaps it was just the exhilaration of moving around after long hours at my highly regimented, demanding job or the gentle guidance from her as she taught me how to do a proper pelvic roll. If I knew going in I would never listen to a Mariah Carey song the same way again, I would not have signed up for the damn class in the first place.

    The whole thing took time to develop. On my first day of class I was extremely nervous as I entered the workout studio of my local gym in Manhattan's West Village. I had never taken a class before, let alone a hiphop dance class. I tried to be inconspicuous and quickly took a spot at the back of the class. Later, I'd find out that in most exercise or dance classes you are judged by where you stand. More experienced students usually take their places in the front of the room so the less experienced can follow their lead. The people in the front are also always thin and beautiful and are constantly blowing kisses at their reflection in the classroom mirror. The further back in the room you stood, however, the less carte blanche you carried. So basically from where I stood everyone probably thought I was a loser. I guess that explains why when I tried to be friendly with the girl in front of me and managed a "hi, it's my first time in the class," she basically ignored me. My anxiety flared, and I turned my head and watched the door.

    So far no sign of teacher. The schedule said "Malin" was slated to teach the class. What a strange name I thought of and expected someone who looked like M.C. Hammer or Janet Jackson to walk in any minute. So when a woman with a short blond bob in a cutoff t-shirt and Adidas sweat pants came strolling in, all smiles, I had no idea who she was. She walked right by me and commented on the room's pungent stench from the previous step class an hour before. "Woo hoo. It smells in here," she beamed.

    Malin introduced herself and asked if there were any new people in the class. I slowly raised my hand and saw I was just one of a few in the packed studio. She looked over at me and smiled warmly. She then went on to explain the class drill. We'd start with a warm up, then learn a routine and end the class with stretches, sit ups, etc. While she spoke I picked up some street roughness in her speech that reminded me of the kids I grew up with in Queens. So she was a cheerleader from the hood. The combination was delicious.

    Suddenly a Crystal Waters song filled the studio and I was overcome with the urge to dance. Then, everyone in the room began bopping. Malin skillfully reeled the class in and led us through the warm-ups. I consider myself a good dancer with rhythm, but I was discouraged when I found myself a half step behind the rest. Malin, seeing my discouragement, looked over at me at me and winked. Embarrassed, I blushed. After a while, however, I got the hang of it, and it felt great. Then came the next step -- a shimmy, which requires you to shake your chest wildly left to right. I didn't know if this risquŽ move was in my modest Asian dance repertoire. I closed my eyes and let loose. Before I knew it I was a shimmying fool. After it was over I felt a bit lightheaded.

    After the warm ups, we began to learn the routine for the day. The actual hip hop moves were much harder than I thought. Unlike a freestyle form of dancing, the moves were much more mechanical and involved a mixture of balance, coordination and timing. Oftentimes my body just wasn't in sync with my head. I was always turning right when I should go left or thrusting my pelvis up when it should go down. At one point, I thought I saw one of the lycraed Barbies from the front of the class snicker at me in the mirror. Malin looked over at me and, with a understanding look, winked. I blushed again.

    After the class I was mentally and physically spent but was psyched to go again next week. I told everyone at work about the class the next day and about my awesome teacher.

    So I returned to the class the next week and the week after that and got better at the moves and more coordinated. I became so confident I found the courage to move up from the last row of the class to the second to last row. I also found myself thinking about Malin incessantly. How did this happen? I suppose the clues were in the class itself. My transformation into prima hiphopster didn't happen overnight. There were a lot of missteps, missed routines. But Malin was always there with an encouraging smile and wink. I felt like she was keeping a special eye on me. On the days when my mind, body and emotions did decide to work together in the great hiphop symphony, it was an incredible feeling. I could tell the Barbie and Ken lycra dolls were disturbed by my progress. On these days I felt like I were flying, and so when Mary J. Blige sung out "real love," that's what I felt for Malin. After all she was responsible. She was the maestro. She picked the music, created the steps and taught them to me. She was truly wonderful.

    I couldn't get Malin out of my mind. I thought about places I would take her, conversations we'd have, how I would introduce her to my parents. I made up an elaborate tale of her life. She was born and raised on the streets and danced to get out of the ghetto. I was sure she was just as crazy about me as I for her. After all, she was constantly smiling and winking at me throughout class. I even thought I saw her reflection in the classroom mirror glance at me a few times during classes. She probably has some strict moral code about dating her students or else we'd be hot and heavy already. What a woman of integrity. After six weeks of class, and endless hours of fantasizing about her rippling stomach muscles, I told myself it was up to me to make the first move.

    What to say. It had to be intelligent, yet coy. Something that would communicate all that we had been feeling for each other in the past several weeks. I also wanted to show off some of my intelligence but at the same time not be elitist in any way. I had to give her the message that I understood where she came from and respected her world. After a few sleepless nights, I came up with this: "What's the difference between hiphop and funk?"

    After class I took longer than usual to roll up my stretch mat, tied my shoes slowly and took small gulps of my bottled water. After tying and untying my shoes several times and sucking dry air from my water bottle, I still wasn't alone with her. After every class, students swarmed Malin. They wanted to learn more about a dance move, places to go dancing, her social life. Damn groupies. When only a few people remained, I managed to approach her and introduced myself. Her eyes recognized me and she smiled warmly.

    I blurted out "I just wanted to let you know you are the best teacher I've ever had." She seemed genuinely flattered and said thank you very much. I then tried to look serious and asked her the question about "disco and hiphop, I mean hiphop and funk." She looked a bit puzzled at first and then embarked on a long explanation about how funk evolved from hiphop. I really don't remember exactly what she said. All I could think about was how smart and beautiful she was.

    When she stopped talking I was at a loss. So I started talking about those Knicks. She had worn a Knick shirt to class once, so I assumed she was a fan. She looked at me and said "Who?" I said "You know, Patrick Ewing's team." Malin then went on to explain that she didn't know much about American sports having immigrated from Sweden only a year ago.

    My head began to spin. What about dancing to get out of the ghetto? And how you were an outcast because of your blond hair? "What about the way you talk?" I said. Again, she looked puzzled. I was aghast and reeling from the first revelation. By the time I had a chance to recover, she told me she planned to make an announcement in class next week that she would no longer be teaching because she was moving to L.A. to be with her boyfriend. "Huh?" I said. What about us, the restaurants we would go to, my parents? Before I could say anything else, she was bolting out the door to catch a train back to Hoboken.

    It took several months for me to put together the puzzle pieces surrounding my feelings for Malin. Even now, whenever I'm driving alone in my car and hear a certain song by Brandy or the Fugees, I can't help but reminisce about the times when I could still eat a Swedish meatball without feeling a pang.