Remembering the dance class – RIPVINS


I had just been to a wedding in Mumbai, as a 17 yr old best man. Ii was all excited but all my excitement came crashing down when the time to dance came. To say that I had 2 left feet is an understatement. I somehow managed to get through the ordeal laboriously & promised myself that the 1st thing I would do when I reach Mangalore was find a dance class & join.

The moment I reached I decided to find a place immediately, someone told me to go this dance class in Balmatta, in a small school. So I went over there at around 5:15 & stood outside the school building, I could hear the music blaring from inside. I had been around that school plenty of times coz there was a cricket ground in front of it but I had never noticed it.  “What a small & funny place to have a dance class” I thought to myself! Then another thought came to my mind, this being a very small place,it wouldn’t be famous & so the people inside will be very less. That gave me a lot of confidence. I went over to the entrance of the classroom, all the while looking at the cricket match going on at the ground to cool myself down. But when I got to the door, I was shocked! I saw about 30 students, all dancing totally carefree & dancing so well! I realised that I couldn’t dance at all, all the while forgetting that this was a dance CLASS & people come here to learn just like me! Each one seemed better than the other. And those sitting down looked at me. My hands went cold &I did the best thing I could think of at that moment, I ran from there & vowed never to come back!

Almost exactly a year later, I was back at the same doorstep. I had somehow gathered the courage to come back. Plus a year was enough to remove the memories of what I had seen. I was worried if the people would recognise the fool who had come a year earlier & ran away from the door itself. This time I had decided that I would atleast enter the dance class before running away. I looked through the door. I realised this time(which I had not noticed a year earlier) that there was a particular arrangement. Chairs were arranged in a big circle around which everyone danced to the music playing at the head of the circle. There was one man who was dancing alone with a girl at the corner of the room. I thought he was dancing separately because he wasn’t very good at it & felt embarrassed to dance in front of everyone in the circle. The circle must be only for the best students I thought. I wondered whom to ask about what to do. Then I saw this guy who was my senior in school, I didn’t know his name,he was dancing in full steam trying to take a girl till the floor & lift her up. I waited at the door till the song ended. He saw me & said ”Hey your from Milagres school right?” I mumbled a yes. He said “Come in come in my name is nelson.” I thanked him thinking he was the instructor. I told him that I wanted to join the classes. He said “Yeah you come, ill tell you & went on to explain to me everything in detail”. Finally he pointed me to the man in the corner & said “He’s the teacher, you can talk to him about the rest.” OMG I thought to myself, the man in the corner was the teacher!!!

I went over to him & that was the day I met Mr Ripson, who went on to change my interest, outlook to dance & obviously the way I danced. He explained to me in his trademark style. He took out the paper with the names of all the dance forms written & explained. “You can learn Quick steps, cha cha,slow  waltz, jive, fast waltz  for Rs 1200.” He said.” Ok ill learn quick steps” I replied & gave him the Rs 1200. He said “No No 1200 for all 5, You learn all 5, individually it would be more expensive.” That was exactly 10 yrs back!

I paid him the amount & asked “So I can join from tomorrow?” he said no, classes start from now only! He took me to the corner, asked the girl to sit in the circle & held both my hands & began his now famous “slow slow quick quick” he did that for 10 mins & those 10 minutes seemed like the longest of my life because as easy as it may sound, I somehow just couldn’t do it right how much ever I tried! Plus I could feel everyone watching me making a fool of myself or probably it was just my imagination. After 10 minutes he said, you can sit for sometime & watch others dance. I went & sat in the corner & watched totally amazed as everyone danced so beautifully. Let me try & remember some of the names of those times. Manoj, Anil, Anisha, Deepthi are a few names that come to mind(this was 10 yrs back mind you) I watched them doing one dance form after another though I didn’t know which was which. Suddenly I got a tap on my shoulder,I looked around & sir pointed at a lady & said “dance with her”…. Are you crazy!!! How could I possibly dance with a girl! That too after I learnt my 1st step 5 minutes back. I said “no no” he said “you dance no problem”. I went over to the lady & tried to do what was thought to me, I forgot what he told me. Was it “slow quick slow quick” or was it “quick slow quick slow.” I started doing “quick quick slow slow.” The lady smiled at me politely & said “No its like this” & taught me how it was done. I was very happy, she thought me well. I made a mental note that I would dance only with her. Days went by & sir taught me more steps & everytime he asked me to dance with the same lady! I kept wondering why! Maybe he was having an affair with her. It was only a week later that I came to know it was his wife, Nisha who to me will always be “ma’am”…who went on to become my favourite dancing partner.

If you used to go to dance class or still go, one thing you’ll know is that inspite of dancing with everyone you will always have your “group” It was the same 10 yrs back. There were one or two groups of experienced dancers & so 3 beginners Vidya ,Naveen & me formed our own group. We discussed dance, all the steps, how it should be done. Infact naveen & me tried many steps together too. I still remember sitting as far as possible from where sir sould see me so that he could not come & ask me to dance with someone. The fun part was since it was a school, at the end of the class the desks & benches of the class had to be arranged back neatly & all the students of Dc would get together & do it within minutes. Something which im sure we used to do even in our schools!

Years went by, I became a regular at dance class. Its my observation that somehow the kids in the age group  17 to 23 make it to come to DC regularly because at that age they feel that’s the most important thing in their lives. Also it’s a good pastime after a hard day in college plus you get to meet new people. I took a break for a year from DC after 3 continuous years of attending. After a couple of years I was surprised  when Ripson sir msgd me & said “dance class is shifting” I never thought that I would miss that old school which I thought was dingy when I just joined.So after a break of about a year I rejoined DC at the new place in YMCA. Honestly I hated it at 1st. I didn’t like the fact that the beautiful circle of the old school had been converted into a long stretch at the new place. But this was the place Ill cherish forever coz here was where I made some great friends. We had our own group here & this was bigger than my 1st one. Levin& Anil whom I knew from school, Kevin(a.k.a gunda) a family friend & 2 guys whom I met just coz of DC , Sudeep & Rohit. All 6 of us used to come to dance class together, sit together. We used to msg each other in the mornings & ask what the plan would be for the evening & invariably it would be the same “lets go to DC”. I must say that we all loved showing off our moves in DC. This friendship is one which goes strong even today even though we are separated by work & place. To think that the boys who became friends just out of PU in DC&  now one is a CA, one is an engineer working here, one engineer in Australia, one engineer in the US, One dental professor in Saudi & one almost on the brink of becoming a surgeon. We wouldn’t have even been friends if not for DC. We used to plan dance parties & the discussion & planning used to happen in DC. When one of us gets up to dance, the other would observe him & tell him his mistakes. At the end of class at 7 we would help Ripson sir close all the windows, shut the music system & keep it in & lock the door.

I remember the names we used to keep for few of the dancers, all in good humor. There was a DIP RAPER for the rough dips he used to do, the ARMY MAN for his stiff dancing moves, the TA TA uncle, the THARKARI for where his eyes used to go while dancing with a girl, DOGGIE uncle, BAATHUKOLI for a particular gal for well… no need for the reason,the  CONSTIPATOR Though I don’t remember why, the CROSS DRESSER, BOOTHNI, BOUNCER. We used to actually secretly call them only by these names, I know its real cruel but fun at that time. Also we used to wait for that one guy to put a girl down while doing the dips & laugh while pretending to care, again cruel I know. Levin even started the 1st ever community of Ripvins on orkut back then & had some 350 members & I was the proud moderator. We used to actually sit & play games on that community! Back in those days it was big! DC was the place where we used to meet to dance & plan out everything after dance while drinking bonda juice in RBs. Every year we used eagerly wait for the Ripvins Anniversary Party. Oh the planning for that was unbelievable. We would start deciding weeks earlier what we would be wearing, who we would  be dancing with & who we wouldn’t dance with. Some of the best dancers of that time where Marsha, Luvlyn, Harold, Anup, Krithika(Priyanka’s mom). But we dance so much with Nisha Ma’am. She has suffered through 100’s of beginners stepping on her toes & doing weird dance steps but she’s always been so nice to them. I remember Ripson sir teaching patiently EVERY student however pathetic they were.  And who can forget the “silent dance” that sir used to make us do when the power went off! And the bumping into each other when the class was over crowded. The months of April, May & october used to be so packed that more than half the people had to stand throughout the dance class for 2 hourss! After the bonda juice the six of us usually went out to play Uno at are usual hangout “Aunty’s place”

And of course, for me personally it’s the place where I saw for the1st time,the girl who went onto become my wife. Yeah love happened much later but I saw her for the 1st time at Ripvins & that’s how our friendship started!

This blog came about when I saw the Ripvins community on facebook & how active & enthusiastic all these 18 to 22 yr olds are active on it. Brought back memories our times though its just been about 5 years back that we were like them. Ripson has changed the face of dance in Mangalore & Ripvins has given all of us great memories to talk about……

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