Monday, May 26, 2014

ZUMBA: Save the Back Row for Me


As soon as I set my water bottle at the back of the room under the large fan, I secure my position on the back row. I'm the new girl at the gym, and I'm not what you'd call a natural dancer.  I love Zumba; it makes me smile. And sometimes, it makes me laugh out loud. I look forward to going to two or three sessions a week, since I've joined, but that doesn't mean I'm any good at it. Okay, to be frank, I suck.

It never fails; sometime during the hour long session, there is a dance step which requires the group to complete a complicated move WHILE rotating 360 degrees, 90 degrees at a time. Did I say complicated? Try holding your arms above your head, while drawing a circle in the air with your hands, while swaying your hips in the same direction as your hands, and then leaping, and landing in a new position, 90 degrees from where you were. 

I am concentrating so hard on counting the beats in my head, and staring at the back of our instructor, that before I know it, the entire group has rotated 180 degrees without me, and there I am, trying desperately to keep the rhythm, and perform the right moves, but I'm still facing forward, and everyone else is facing ME. I feel like I am performing for the class, and doing a very poor job of it. The awkward moments only last a few moments, and they always make me laugh, so it's all good, as they say down south.

For those who have been coming to Zumba for years, or even those who have done the routines every week for awhile, the moves seem to come naturally. Everyone has their own little flair for the dance, adding a head bob here, a flick of the wrist there, or a thrusting of the hip or pelvis on an accented note. My own nuances are comical, at best, but I can do a "single-single-double" like nobody's business.

Me, I'm just trying to survive. In an effort to help the new girl (that would be me), the instructor will hold up her hand to let me know how many of the next step we're performing. Anyone who knows anything there ignores her upheld hand, knowing it's just a signal. Not me, I hold my hand up, too, trying desperately to mimic her EVERY move. I quickly pull my hand back down when I can see in the grand expanse of mirrors at the front of the room that once again, I'm the "odd man out."

Zumba enthusiasts seem to enjoy audience participation. Dancers periodically yell out, "WOO-HOO!" or a simple "WOO!" to let others know how much they're enjoying themselves. Instructors encourage class members to join in on certain parts of the song, singing along with the Latin music in Spanish, or having everyone shout in unison, certain repetitive phrases of the lyrics.

"Come on, people!" the instructor might say.

"I can't HEAR you!" she might interject.

"How's everybody doing?" she'll ask above the sound blaring from the speakers.

It's not that I don't KNOW what to say, or that I don't WANT to be an active participant, but I am one of those people who struggles with too many tasks at once. Yes, I can manage to walk and chew gum at the same time, but ask me to coordinate a dance step with hand movements, AND a verbal response, and suddenly, I feel like I'm trying to pat my head and rub my tummy at the same time, and what little synchronicity I had, flies right out the window.

If you've been thinking about trying Zumba, but weren't sure if it's for you, I'd encourage you to give it a whirl. If you're a dancer, you'll fit right in. And if you're not, there's something there for you, too. We all need more exercise, and it really is a good time. If nothing else, it will keep you laughing at yourself, and that will keep you humble. Burning calories, having fun, laughing hysterically, and lessons in humility; what more could you want?

Zumba: the exercise that has it all. You don't have to look good doing it; you just have to have fun. Just remember: save the back row for me!


  1. Oh Denise - I swear you and I are sisters from another mother! This is so "me too!" I do Zumba at home occasionally - and even though no one is there, I'm often embarrassed at how uncoordinated, off-beat, and totally backwards I am sometimes! But I love to dance, and I love the music, so I keep trying every so often, even though I suck too! (PS- the pics are AWESOME! I may have to steal one or two :)

    1. Dawn, I love hearing from you. Your blog is what kept me going some days. I would think, "Dawn is doing this, too. You can do this. Keep at it." Thanks for not quitting. I needed to know you weren't going to throw in the towel.

  2. You are so awesome!!! I love that you're doing Zumba, I love that you're enjoying it, and I love that you can find the humor in it! Keep having fun with it!!!

    1. I'm just here to please, Iris. ;-) If we can't laugh at ourselves, something is wrong...

  3. This is a great post! I used to go to Zumba at the gym here after being overseas all year. Needless to say, I had NO idea what I was doing and often found myself going right when everybody else was going left! It was a lesson in humility and hilarity, that's for sure!

    1. Alex, so glad you enjoyed it. Today I'm off to a 3x3 workout at the gym. I have no idea what I'm getting myself into, but I believe weights and sweating are involved. It can't be as much fun as Zumba, but I need to do some weight-bearing exercise. (You'd think lumbering around with this weight of my own would count, but alas...)


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