Zumba – the fitness kick with a Latin inspiration

Tapping toes and fluttering fingers were my forte when I was younger.

Tapping toes and fluttering fingers were my forte when I was younger. Moving up to secondary school, dance developed into boys.  I had always regretted giving up that dream – my dream to be a dancer. 

When my friend suggested Zumba – the latest fitness kick with a Latin inspiration – I was hesitant. I had been to adult classes before – a fast-paced Step club directed by a pretentious instructor. Strutting, top-of-the-class, hell-cats narrowed their watchful eyes on those who could not extend their leg as high. From then, I wanted to keep fit solo.

But everyone I knew was embracing the trend, from all ages – 22 to 62. Perhaps, I thought, I could bear an hour of humiliation. 

A little research only made me more nervous.  Zumba borrows body-shaking moves from round-the-world music and dance. As well as Latin shimmies, inspiration is drawn from Punjabi bhangra and Afro pop. Lacking knowledge of these traditional dance numbers, I dreaded ending the class with my body in a twist.

I had not moved rhythmically for ten years. Bobbing side to side in clubs and juggling Cheeky Vimto to the beat was the most of my swing. I was going to look like Bambi on ice without the cuteness. 

I decided to hide my robotic-stiff body under baggy tracksuit bottoms, a black ribbed vest, white socks and dirty-white plimsolls. Not the best decision. On my way to the class, pouring rain overflowed the sole on my shoes, which were as thin as ham. 

Stepping into the gym hall, I left puddles deep enough for ducks to swim in. My socks were now a matching shade to my plimsolls; the colour of mud-slush. 

The instructor ran through the door grinning, contagiously.  Miniature in stature, she looked the same age as us students. Unusual.  Normally they make an entrance with a hop and a skip, dressed in black latex, smirking, knowing their students will never be as good as them.

But this teacher’s presence was comforting, not a threat. She looked like one of us. 

She got us straight into the groove. No warm-up exercises needed. Legs were sliding, bodies turning. I could just about keep pace – until her hands and arms snapped into a quirky Macarena-looking routine. It looked risky. But I did it. And, sure enough, I ended up in a twist.

To my surprise, the rest of the lesson went more smoothly. In fact, I had fun. My brain was focused on soaking up the basic steps of salsa, merengue, cumbia and reggaeton. Eventually, they came together like building blocks; repetitive moves that had me swaying across the hall. Lindsey and I got so into the routines that although we started at the back of the class trying to hide, we ended up practically at the front and behind the teacher.

Of course, I looked like a drowned rat trying to fan off her wet fur. But I had put myself to the test. And out of it I acquired a new pastime. Or resurrected a dead dream.  I told my friend. ‘Great’, she replied. ‘How about pole dancing lessons?’