My first Zumba class sucked. I went in because Linda was going and I was desperate to increase my activity and needed a buddy besides poor Scott. (Who always goes along with whatever I’m doing but really shouldn’t have to.) I hated it. For starters, I did not know the steps at all. Other friends had described it to me as being something like belly dance, with which I’m reasonably familiar. After two songs, it became clear that these people were deluded. The only thing Zumba has to do with belly dance is that you sometimes do a belly dance hip-bump as part of a travelling walk-like-an-Egyptian grapevine. There is no sexy rolling of the belly in Zumba, and absolutely nothing is leisurely. Let me repeat that. Nothing. Is. Leisurely. The music is fast, and the instructor doesn’t really break it down all that frequently or effectively. If you come to Zumba unfamiliar with the form, come prepared to do a lot of flailing. In fact, one of the reasons I had come was that I hoped to find, hell the Y circular advertised, a dance class. I did not want some aerobics course.
When I was in my final year of college, I had to take one credit of PE to get my BA. I took aerobics because I hate exercise and that seemed the least odious option. I liked the instructor, a lively woman who was a dancer when she wasn’t teaching college phys ed. It was from taking that class that I realized much modern group dancing is merely glorified aerobics, and that I really really hate exercise. Not that I hadn’t already figured this second thing out on my own. I don’t like getting out of breath, and I loathe muscle fatigue.
So it was really easy that first class for me to recognize that Zumba is nothing more than glorified aerobics, and that I hated it. I wanted to dance. I wanted someone to teach me the steps, so that I could keep up with the class, and I wanted to learn how to pull off awesome moves on the floor. Purely aside from this, I had on shoes those first few classes, so every time I felt like vomiting, I had to stop and sit on my ass. It wasn’t just that I was out of shape. It was that if my feet get hot, I get nauseous. And if I don’t cool them down fast, I puke. Of course, being out of shape didn’t help in that regard, either, but mostly, it was the feet.
So we left the class with Linda’s friend Ethel while I cussed a blue streak and swore it was the worst thing I’d ever done. This wasn’t the bitching and moaning I have learned to engage in. In that kind of normal workout whining, it’s perfectly OK for everyone in the room to groan simultaneously, and there’s generally some wit (like me) with something inane and demotivating to say. This was the fury of someone who felt deceived. I came back entirely because I’d promised to keep Linda company. I promised her I’d try it once a week for a month, but that was it.
The second class felt as awful as the first, but I didn’t have the deception problem, so I wasn’t so angry about that. By the third class, I’d remembered I have to do everything barefoot, and I wasn’t so unhappy. And by the fourth class, I realized I’d learned a lot more of the moves than I would have expected given my rather negative state of mind. Two weeks after that, I was totally hooked. I had realized I loved Zumba, and that, though it remains glossed-over aerobics, there are dance moves in there, and I am learning them. There’s a lot of fun shimmy-shimmy pop stuff that I enjoy, and yes, it does bear a distant resemblance to belly dance. (Very distant.)
I’m going to have to be careful which teachers I take it with, though. They’ve just added an irritating woman with the drill sergeant problem (none of the other Zumba teachers has felt the need to bellow us forward) who is going to be taking over my favorite class AND teaching the one they’re adding on Sundays. Denisse, who taught it when I first started attending, has moved on. She’s a military spouse, subject to the whims of the U.S. Air Force. She left behind her an awesome crew including my favorite, Jina, and that’s whose classes I’ll look to take when I have a choice.
And to tell you the truth, I like my Zumba well enough that I may be tolerant of the dictators in there, but we’ll see about that. I spent a good few minutes contemplating what I would do to the tightly permed hair of the new twit if I could just get her in a headlock. So I’ll maybe have to stick to my favorites for now.
Jessie Powell is the Jester Queen. She likes to tell you about her dog, her kids, her fiction, and her blog, but not necessarily in that order.