“Was it good?” – well, now that you ask

I felt just like a teddy bear, stubby and chubby...

I felt just like a teddy bear, stubby and chubby…

Zumba classes are a jungle, but one where even the least fit can survive

I love dancing, particularly tropical rhythms, and I don’t mind doing the odd aerobic workout so, as the vast majority of women nowadays, zumba was a natural option for me.  A friend asked me last summer to join her in a zumba class but I was more of a closet practitioner. I always thought that if you’re going to be panting and sweating, you might as well do it in the privacy of your own living room with the help of DVDs of Zumba workouts. At first I wasn’t too willing to enroll in the classes because, besides the normal reticence of starting a new routine, I was feeling a bit self-conscious, what with being rather short and fat. I got the impression I would look like a stuffed teddy bear bouncing among the cool thin girls, but what the hell, I decided I would give it a go since, as I get older, I care less and less what others think of me.

When I got to the class, I was relieved to recognize the instructor – we’ve met a couple of years ago at a failed attempt of mine to learn to dance salsa. Turns out I’m not very good at dancing on hold as I can’t tell my left  from my right, so every time he would say: “the woman steps to the right, the man to the left” I was left stepping either way, trying to figure out which way to go, stepping on some toes along the way, but that’s another story for another time.

The instructor moves with the grace and power of a panther

Meeting again my salsa teacher and having my friend in the same group put me at ease. Once the music start, the rhythm is so infectious and energetic that you really don’t have a lot of time to think about what you look like, you just try to keep the pace.

But there’s another important aspect that put my fears to rest, the realization that my zumba classmates came in all shapes and sizes, and that your fitness level and/or stamina don’t necessarily mean you have a sense of rhythm or graceful movements.

My zumba teacher makes me think of a black panther, a tall, toned black Cuban man that moves with the grace of a ballet dancer and the energy of a boxer. Compared to him, I for sure continued to feel like a round teddy bear, but my classmates also reminded me of other animals, and I say this without any hint of mockery, but rather recognition that women’s bodies, even if they’re thin and toned, are not all created equal.

For instance, the tall, thin classmates remind me a little of giraffes – you have to be careful when a routine asks for arm or leg extensions. so you have to always calculate your trajectory in the movement hoping you won’t get in their range of motion.

There are also those who –when they get tired or to avoid getting too tired before the end of the class– move their arms wide and rapidly while keeping leg movement to a minimum, like birds getting their wings dry after a heavy rain. There are birds with longer, thinner legs, and there are those with rounder bodies and shorter legs, but the arm technique is the same. You also have to be careful with them because, even if they don’t move a lot around the room, they do need space to spread their wings.

...whatever your shape, there's always a zumba movement that will make you feel ackward...

…whatever your shape, there’s always a zumba movement that will make you feel ackward…

So, all in all, whatever your shape, there will always be a zumba movement that will make you feel awkward, and is reassuring feeling knowing that there’s no good or bad way of doing zumba as long as you do it safely. There are too many talent shows on TV where people are judged and compared against each other in their singing, dancing, cooking skills, looks like things that you’d do for fun now had to be of a certain standard to be worthwhile. No wonder people are so self-conscious in social settings.

As for me, I decided I’ll do my best to keep up with my teacher, waving my short stumpy limbs around as fast as I can. I go to the back of the classroom as there’s always much more space there.

...suddenly she started doing some taichi movements as a warm up for the zumba...

…suddenly she started doing some taichi movements as a warm up for the zumba…

About a week ago a new lady of a certain age joined our class during one of our recesses, and started doing some tai chi movements. She was thin, with thin legs and arms, made me think of a nimble monkey. Turns out she got the schedule wrong and thought we were just starting and that was her way of warming up, but for a moment I thought she got the wrong class and just wanted to start a new style of slow motion zumba for the mature woman.

Once the class finished, I met her again in the locker room.

She turned to me and asked me:

– “Was it good?”

Her question caught me off guard because by now I had already decided she was weird woman. But also because sometimes I can take things too literal in an attempt to be logical. So I try to figure out what did she mean with the question. For  a moment I thought she meant something like “was it as good for you as it was for me?” and my mind was already starting to question either her intentions or the salaciousness of my zumba movements. then I thought the question was a bit out of place, after all, she was also in the class so for sure she must knew how it was.

In any the case, the time it took me to think of all these possibilities and the look of my face might have gave them the impression that I was either completely stupid or somewhat lost because she asked me “do you speak English?” “oh yeah, yeah” I assured her.  “It is good to move around, isn’t it?” she replied.

Well, now that you ask, it is good indeed.

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