I have infiltrated a part of Italian subculture that has nothing to do with art, history, or ‘high culture’. I have a secret life. A B-side. A very toned B-side, thanks to this. It’s called Step. The late 80s fitness revolution kicked off by Reebok has evolved, in Europe, into a complex dance choreography around the step, communicated with hand signals and performed to the latest dance hits played at club volumes. I get all psyched up just trying to write a definition.
When it gets into you, step becomes an obsession. I have been doing it for three years now, 1, 2, 3 times a week. Finally, this weekend, I participated in my first step convention. These fitness conventions take place almost every weekend around Italy in the warmer months, and there are people, and instructors, who travel continuously to do them all. They usually involve one or more days of step and dance fitness. Somehow, people do this for 7 straight hours without dropping dead. Here is a video of the first class I attended at the Jem Convention in Seano (PO), taught by the world-famous French instructor Remy Huleux.
I stopped to record the video as an excuse because really, I had no chance of completing the choreography without tripping and breaking my ankle.
This obsession all started three years ago, when I went to a ‘surprise lesson’ at my gym that was a rather difficult step class taught by a very welcoming and friendly instructor, Giorgia Baldelli. Although the choreography was very difficult, I was pleased to find that my feet went pretty much where they were supposed to. I have never danced, and am perhaps the worst dancer you will ever see, so this was a really big surprise. I started attending all the step classes my gym offered, I started getting better, and my fitness level and strength have increased to the point that I have been able to start snowboarding again after a period battling with arthritis. Recently, I have joined a second gym, Olympus club, that has even more of these classes and is known for having the best instructors in Florence. Now my only problem is having to go to work, for really, I’d rather be at the gym.
I think this sport was made for me. Where else can you dance to ear-splittingly loud music during the day and without alcohol or cigarettes? The atmosphere at the convention I attended was very friendly. The area’s best ‘steppers,’ all decked out in their best hip-hop wear (Milan-based Moma Studios appears to be the brand), welcomed me as a newbie and some tried to help me catch on to moves that I wasn’t able to follow. Over lunch (apples and energy bars seem to be de riguer) I got to know a few people a bit better. They’re mostly women in their 30s and 40s – this is a real discipline with a mental element that doesn’t appeal to the very young crowd. I am always surprised to find out what people I only see at the gym do in their ‘real lives.’ There’s a lawyer, a press officer for a local politician, a banker, a mom, a journalist, an engineer. The instructors, too, often do this as a second job – Giorgia is a doctor. But when doing fitness we share a passion and energy for something positive for our bodies and minds and discussion of other parts of life is minimal. It’s a wonderful feeling.