There is a small enclave in Madrid where neon lives and strobe is still king. One of the last surviving pockets of disco-fabulous, it isn't where I expected to find it. As all of the dance clubs huddle under the heading of "discoteca" I thought that I would find roller skates and John Travolta in a side alley somewhere near a shag carpet emporium. But instead, el Gimnasio Arguelles can claim endangered status.
He is not especially tall, nor especially buff. I wouldn't have pegged him as the gym employee type. Perhaps a marathoner, or a soy protein addict, but my favorite instructor is just that-- a knowledgeable gym rat, an indispensable fixture who infamous for his music choices.
I was chatting with my roommate as I sauntered to a spot on the studio floor and started to unfurl my mat. As the far left corner made contact with the ground, an older woman slammed her water bottle into the space about to be occupied, effectively claiming the spot as her's. I started laughing, the water bottle suddenly looking very much like its owner, stolid and unmoving as it guarded the floor. After a moment the woman laughed and moved her bottle, shrugging good naturedly. I understood. The stairs outside the studio had filled steadily for ten minutes before the class started; when the step class let out and the door opened, it was akin to watching cockroaches scuttle away from light, everyone rushing to find a place.
Towards the end of his total body fitness class, as the hour winds down and the stretching begins, so does the exodus. Women grab their mats and their water bottles and jog towards the door.
"That's rude," I thought, pulling my leg towards my chest, imitating the way he sunk into his stretch like a ballerina, the motion smooth and controlled. I understood the rush, however, when I found every bike in the spinning room occupied, with him at the helm.
He rolled through the door with very little effort, his curly, platinum blonde highlighted head unaffected by the smooth forward progress of his hips and feet.
"He shaves his legs," Alice leaned towards me from her stationary bike.
I cocked an eyebrow.
"No, I'm serious. Check it out."
It's true. His black and neon yellow spandex unitard only reaches the middle of his calves, allowing me to confirm that he does, indeed, take a razor to his gams.
"Vamos!" He swings into the saddle, his bike on a platform in the center of the room. As he puts in the first CD, he sings to himself and unzips the front of his shirt.
The lights go out.
And the strobe light rages.
"He does this thing with his shoulders," Alice said, mimicking a "Night at the Roxbury" move, and snapping her fingers. "Oooh. Just you wait."
His legs circle perfectly in time with the music, a certain bounce on the hips at every second downbeat, lowering his shoulders in a roll, and then rising to a shake. To change positions on the bike he whistles, just one sharp, piercing blast, signalling that we should move our hands from second to third. I'm sweating profusely, trying to sync my legs with the tempo and with his dance moves. He beckons the class coquettishly with two fingers, grinning wickedly as he sinks lower and lower into his handlebars, then shoots back up, clapping his hands above his head.
To the lingering tones of the "Hey Mickey" remix, I peeled myself off the bike and used my shirt to wipe my face. I caught his wink on the way out, as he mouthed the words and turned off the strobe.