Monday, September 20, 2010


While I'm on the topic of the Y, last Friday I decided to try out a Zumba class. In case, you haven't heard of it, "Zumba" is a wildly popular aerobic exercise class based on Latin-style music and dance moves. I love Latin dance, so I thought it might add some fun variety to my workouts. I started with the "Zumba Gold" class- which actually is geared toward the beginner (not a higher level- like it sounds) or "older active adults." (Is that a nice way of saying silver-haired women and post-pregnancy out-of-shapers?)

I showed up for the class, not quite knowing what to expect. The instructor was wearing black cargo capris embroidered with a "Zumba!!" logo, along with a black tank top covered by a red off-the-shoulder top. She spotted a couple of newbies, including me (I guess we were the ones standing uncertainly with an "I have no idea what I am doing here" look on our faces) and gave us the rundown. "The idea behind Zumba is that you are at a nightclub Latin dancing. You see someone across the room with some great moves and you mimic what they are doing." She put a red headband around her wild black curly hair and went to the front of the room. The lights went down to near-darkness and then she started the routines.

Can I just insert here that while I do not consider myself uncoordinated at all, group aerobic classes have a way of making me feel like a klutz? I took four years of ballroom dance classes when I was in college, including multiple Latin dance classes. But when they teach you ballroom, you and the person modeling the steps face the same direction. In aerobics, for some weird reason, the instructor has to face you and you try to follow what they are doing but mirror image. This produces strange contortions in my brain (not to mention my body). Nonetheless, I was determined to give this a valiant effort. I tried my best to follow the wild shimmies, head swirls and arm lassos of our enthusiastic instructor, but all I could think of when I saw my reflection in the dance studio mirror was: "If I saw someone with moves like this at a nightclub, I would run the other direction. Fast."

But the first song eventually ended and after enthusiastic applause from the more Zumba-ed "active older adults" in the room, we started on our next routine. "Let's Cha-cha!!" she enthusiastically cried. "Oh good," I thought, "Cha-Cha is one thing I DO know how to do already." Maybe all of my semesters of ballroom dance were good for something. Or maybe not. For those of you who aren't familiar with the Cha-Cha, you do a step back, then forward, then take three side steps on the "cha-cha-cha" part of the rhythm. But the tricky part of the Cha-Cha is that the first step starts on the second beat of the measure, not the first like you might expect. So in every single cha-cha class they DRILL into you: START ON BEAT 2!!!! But this was not a ballroom dance class and we started our step on Beat 1. So the entire time my body and mind were screaming at me, "BREAK BACK ON BEAT 2!!!!! Good grief, can't you hear the "Cha-cha-cha" in the music? Stop!! Stop!! You're doing it WRONG!!!!!" (Do I have control issues? Hmmm...)

The class went on. I guess I didn't realize I was such a Latin dance snob. I understand that Zumba is simply a way to get you up off your duff and burning calories in a way that is somewhat entertaining. Nevertheless, I was really internally annoyed that it seemed like the instructor figured that if you just threw enough hip shimmies, arm lassos and booty shakes into a routine that made it "Latin." Latin dance is an art form with complicated moves and precise technique, not just an excuse to wiggle your hips and toss your head around. I am used to Latin dancing in silver high-heeled T-straps with sparkly rhinestones. Trying to "work it" wearing tennis shoes was like trying to be graceful with bricks on your feet. Latin dance snobs of the world unite!!! Get out your sparkly silver Latin sandals and bust a move!!! (Do I have control issues--- or just issues in general?)

I guess I figured out that Zumba wasn't precise enough for my overly uptight brain and not free enough for me to just do what I wanted. No offense to anyone who likes Zumba. Maybe I would have liked it better if I hadn't felt so uncoordinated or had to look at myself in the mirror... Maybe I would like it better with silver sparkly high-heeled sandals. Maybe I'll stick to Pilates....


Lara said...

My mom sent me a zumba DVD, I haven't tried it yet though.

I say you just wear your Latin shoes. :)

Emily said...

I went to one zumba class once. I felt like the biggest dork ever and haven't been back soon. It was fun, but I just can't do all the moves!

Suzie Petunia said...

Yes, wear your sparkly latin shoes and start on "beat 2" and show them how it is really done! :) I don't think I want to try Zumba now. I'm way too self conscious for that stuff! Sad, huh?

Ranell said...

I also am not a huge fan of Zumba, the instructor/directional thing bugs me, too. I much prefer that aerobics instructors face the front of the room so I can follow along behind (and it definitely feels like they can't see how many mistakes I make either). I also think like an aerobics instructor so I'm used to having/giving cues a beat or two before you have to do it, like a warning. In Zumba, there's no warning, you're just wildly throwing your body around and hopefully not bumping into other people.

But, after a few classes, you start to learn the moves (and you realize very few people around you can do it well, either) and it is fun and you sweat a lot, so overall it's not a bad way to burn a bunch of calories.