​Zumba Class
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Health and Wellness

​Zumba Class

Because what does a tough cardio work out need? Embarrassment

​Zumba Class
A&A Photography

I’ve taken a lot of dance classes. By that, I mean that I’ve quit a lot of dance classes. I would always beg my mom to sign me up for ballet, jazz, tap, anything. And then I’d get into the class and love it – the smooth wooden floor, the room of mirrors, all the girls in their cute little leotards and tight ballet-buns — until we’d start dancing.

I am a human that cannot dance. The relationship between my brain and body is like a divorced couple trying to remain civil for the kids. They split ownership of my being, but they do not communicate well.

I’d watch the instructor dance and think we’re doing the exact same thing only to find out that everyone else is going left when I’m going right, my spins are completely backwards and while the rest of the class looks graceful I look more like a clumsy robot, and not in the way in which one looks cool by “doing the robot.”

I’d go home and cry, begging my mom to never make me go back to dance class again, and by next Saturday I’d be back on the couch eating cereal and watching cartoons as my older sister was prancing around in her red velvet leotard.

It took a few classes, and cycles of this scarring experience for me to get it through my head, which included quitting jazz because I couldn’t even figure out how to snap on key and not making it onto my middle school cheer team, which let’s face it, it was middle school, you’re supposed to just let the dumb kids dance.

As an adult, I’ve learned to own my flaws. If I have the urge to dance I do it in the comfort of my own home or under the influence of a dubious amount of alcohol, in which everyone else is too so I’m safe to go out and dance badly for all the world to see and not remember.

The other time normal adult women seem to enjoy dancing is in a God-awful gym class called Zumba. Loud Spanish music plays and the room, half full of young adults and half full of little old ladies, follow the instructor, sweat up a storm and have a ton of fun. On the other hand, if you’re someone who’s rhythmically challenged like me, then Zumba is your hell realized.

"Around the Clock fitness" doesn’t serve cheap alcohol and I’m not five years old again, so slamming into people during Zumba is no longer cute and generally frowned upon. Therefore, it is not for me.

The idea of skipping a work out isn't all that stressful for me, as working out has never been a crucial part of my daily, weekly or monthly routine. I’ve gone through brief periods of working out that were like summer flings. I’d get filled with a rush of excitement and have my boredom temporary satisfied, but then life would get back in the way and I’d decide it just wasn’t for me.

But, like most 20-something girls, I do have peppy work out friends. Friends with perfect ponytails and tight abs who just swear by Zumba because, “you don’t even realize you’re working out!”

Working out without realizing it… Were my long-time dreams of having a perfect body by contributing zero effort finally coming true?

I live with one of these Zumba-goers. She’s my older sister Hannah, and unlike me, she never quit her dance classes. She continued to dance throughout Highschool and was on the Colorguard team, which is basically dance except you fling around heavy objects and catch them during half-time at football games, where stands of people sit, staring at you.

Let’s just say I didn’t even attempt to daydream about trying out for Colorguard.

Hannah is a human who can dance. She picks steps up the first time they’re taught and manages to look good while doing it. I’ve seen it done countless times throughout my life. She was given all of the dancer genes and I was given pure cynicism, or maybe I picked that up somewhere along the way.

I look back through hazy memories of watching her recitals with the rest of my family. Some people are performers and some are viewers. I was a viewer. I liked to sit in the stands while being entertained by the show and eating buttery popcorn. I liked being out of the focus, where the attention is just as frightening for me as the idea of putting in the work.

I consider these facts as I debate whether or not to join her for Zumba class. Was I really content with remaining a viewer, or had I just always quit before I felt the warm embrace of the spotlight? Five-year-old me, looking precious in my leotard and dance shoes, stumbles through my mind, telling me to give dancing one more chance.

My present older and wiser self is enticed by that same blind optimism and I begin to rationalize going.

“Maybe it’ll be like club dancing, but instead of consuming sticky alcohol calories, I’ll actually be losing weight,” I thought. “And without having to run or lift weights which sound way worse.”

Five minutes into the class I realize I’m wrong, and I’m sweaty. I curse myself for picking the spot furthest from the door, making a secret escape out of the question.

The instructor’s name is Delphine, “like dolphin.” She has the rhythm and energy to match the rapid salsa beats and smiles ear-to-ear as she does them. Despite her guided pointing and counting along with the beats, I seemed to always be a footstep behind, which is inconvenient considering Zumba incorporates rapid foot movements.

Let me be clear that I’m not saying Zumba is a particularly hard activity. The class is designed so that the average person can pick up the dance within the first run-through. I’m just saying that Zumba is hard for me.

The dances are typically broken up into four sets of eight counts, which you then repeat until the song is over. And if I’m being honest, a good portion of that is some variation of stepping from side-to-side.

The moment I got a handle on the “side-to-side step” Delphine would throw me a curveball and step to a side twice. First of all, how dare she? I tore my eyes off of the instructor and looked in horror at my reflection in the mirror as I continued to go right as the class went left.

I looked like a stale French fry that squeezed itself into some LuLu Lemons and was just trying their best.

By the third or fourth round of repetitive movements, I had finally gotten it somewhat right. I certainly didn’t look like a sexy Samba dancer, but I was going in the right direction and no one was being run into.

“Okay Jules,” I began my pep-talk. “You know the foot moves now let’s try to put your hips in it a little and maybe even match it with those cool hand moves everyone else is doing.”

“Alright everybody, remember to get some water!” Delphine shouted, cutting off my inner monolog and changing the song to one with an even faster beat.

After class, I was going to follow Delphine to her car and kill her.

Okay, maybe not. But I was definitely never going to go to Zumba again.

Eventually, between my exhaustion and embarrassment, there was no room for anger, and I had to stop thinking about strangling the instructor and start figuring out how to make it through another 45 minutes of this dance class.

It might have been the endorphins racing through my brain but around halfway through I actually started to forget the awkward dancer in the mirror and have fun.

When I was a kid, I didn’t want to be a dancer so that I’d look cool or so people would admire me. I wanted to be a dancer because I liked the freaking tutus and I wanted to hang out with my friends after school.

At the bar, people dance simply because there’s a good song playing, or because they want to laugh loudly under the changing lights and feel the bass in their chests.

I was there because I wanted a fun way to work out and I wasn’t going to stop stepping awkwardly around the room until I got it.

I tried my best to stay along with the beat and laughed when I clapped while no one else did. By the end of the class I didn’t get any better at dancing and had no new hot moves to show off at the bar, but I had fun with my sister and even burned a few calories and made room for the ice cream we had to celebrate.

I was still clumsy and far from a performer, but I had become something better than a viewer. I was a participator, which probably feels just as good.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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