I step into a spacious, well-lit studio. The clock shows a quarter to seven. The room is already crowded. Women of ages between fifteen and eighty are dressed up in skinny pants and wide bright T-shirts that look like dresses. They line up in front of the mirror wall. The majority have Afro-American and Hispanic ethnicity, vivid and loud, though I notice a few young faces, as lost as I am. Some of them practice complex movements, making sounds with colorful jingle bell scarves around their waists; others chat loudly in small groups. I stand motionless not knowing where to put my hands, which makes me look awkward. Shall I pretend I’m rehearsing a new dance as well, or shall I just freeze in the standing position and wait until I get definite instructions? Having running sneakers and yoga pants on, I feel like a sheep lost on the neighbor’s farm. Confused and shy, I make my way towards the middle of the room to disappear in the crowd.
Suddenly everyone shuts up. I turn around and see a tiny, fragile lady in her fifties marching across the room, stopping at the front. “For those who don’t know me, I am Linda,” she introduces herself. No one says a word and waits in anticipation. It takes her about two minutes to change her heels for dancing shoes and take off her sweater. The crowd is still silent watching her. She comes up to the CD player in the corner of the room, inserts a CD and turns the music on. The first song, “Sexy” by the Black Eyed Peas, breaks the silence. Everyone wakes up from their daydream, and the magic dance begins…
“Don’t even dare to look at me,” Linda screams trying to draw our attention while the second song “Latino Girl” begins. “I want you to move every part of your body, and it’s your business how you are going to do it,” she says, not even turning her head back when addressing the group. Instead, she smiles to us in the mirror, keeping on spreading the hands aside and making steps to the right and to the left.
I can hardly see her petite figure in front waving her hands to make sure I do the right things. Eventually, I lose any hope of improving my dance, which looks more like African tribe ritual moves rather than the rumba. I give up and wave randomly with my hands and legs. Fast movements make me breathe fast and unsteady. I have no idea what I’m doing with the steps, as the rhythm is out of my control completely now. I look at my neighbors. They have been practicing dancing forever, so smooth and graceful as they move. And here I am: in my running sneakers which I can barely turn from side to side.
Besides the fact that my outfit didn’t fit with dress code at all, I, being an awful dancer, find myself going in the opposite direction from the rest of the group which makes me run into other womens’ sweating bodies, stepping on random feet. Some of them start giving me mean looks saying, “Are you really that bad?” Yes, I really am, I want to say, but I keep on moving as the instructor says.
Ten minutes later, the first drops of sweat start running down my forehead. Now it feels like a real work out. My arms get heavier from waving and my knees start shaking. I stop for a second to take a deep breath when, at the very same moment, I hear Linda’s voice, “You are here not to chill, girl. Move your butt!” I follow her order, catching up with the rest of the class.
Zumba. What an exotic name for a dance! I thought.The idea to attend a Zumba class has always appealed to me. An hour long, non-stop dance that not only has an exotic name, but also promises to make you lose up to a thousand calories at a time. That’s what made me sign up for the embarrassment I’m going through now.
The women around me seem like they are enjoying it a lot. They have big smiles decorating their sweaty red faces. When I look closer while making ballet turns back and forth, I notice that they are far from being perfect; they just move and have fun. I ask myself, maybe I should stop trying to become a first-class ballerina and start enjoying it as well?
Ten minutes before the class is over I’m full of energy and inspiration, which got into my body as soon as I stopped focusing on the way I look and move. Clumsy but happy, I wiggle my hips to “Mamba” completely forgetting that I am in the gym and not at the sunset beach somewhere in Hawaii with an orchid necklace around my neck. Relaxed, I listen to the rhythm. My prejudice of being a bad dancer completely disappears. The whole group turns into a unity of moving bodies giggling and cheering as the last song ends.
“Good job, ladies,” Linda claps her hands. The class applauses, “Thank you, Linda!” Everyone shares dance impressions with each other, laughs and repeats steps. Like a complete circle, the class ends the way it started. It gets quieter and quieter as the women start leaving the room.
Having started almost as hell, I realize that Zumba has opened a new world of fun to me and made my night. I leave the class with a smile on my face, exhausted and inspired. It doesn’t matter how good you are at it. Just move your body as hard as you can, sweat out all the calories from chocolate along with negativity and stress you got during the day, experience the authentic music and forget about being clumsy. It doesn’t matter whether you are flexible, have an ear for rhythm or you are absolutely out of the beat, I know you can still enjoy the class. We are all free, young and beautiful in the flow of dance. Spring won’t wait; it’s time to be back to your sexy shape now.