This evening I entered the sexy world of Zumba. What an exercise experience. I wasn’t brave enough for a class but I dug out a DVD which welcomed me to “the exercise dance party”. Not my normal kind of party – alcohol and cake were noticeably absent, but still it was hard not to have fun with this half hour dance workout.
Beto Perez (the creator of Zumba) is a choreographer and aerobics instructor who forgot his usual CDs at a class one day. Reaching into his bag he pulled out some Salsa music he happened to have and he promptly winged it from there. Zumba was born and I’m sure he’s never looked back! What a serendipitous moment for Beto and for the world of exercise.
It was really good fun. It was high energy and it felt like I was working hard but it didn’t feel like exercise. It reminded me of my first year of University when every Friday we would head down to the Waterfront in Bristol and dance for hours on end at a club called Wedgies. I was never hugely into nightclubs but I did love this one – it was cheesy tunes all night and we had that Freshers’ enthusiasm to keep us dancing until the lights came on at closing time (at which point we made swift exits and headed for kebab vans before sleep claimed us).
I’d forgotten how much I loved to dance. These days we dance at weddings once or twice a year. My husband and I love a night of dancing – we have absolutely nailed the routine to Blame it on the Boogie and we own the floor when Bryan Adams and Mel C come on singing Baby When You’re Gone.
Of course, working out to a Zumba DVD in the sitting room (trying not to fling my arms too wildly and hit the ceiling light), whilst the toddler and baby are asleep upstairs and I can hear my husband cleaning the kitchen, is not quite the same heady rush as being on a dancefloor at 1am jumping up and down with a room of strangers all peacocking to Summer of ’69. (We really did think we looked good by the way).
The women on the Zumba DVD did not look like me whilst they danced. No sports kit, ponytails and hairbands for them. They both had hair down to their waists which they dramatically threw around as they zumba’d – and smokey eye makeup that didn’t smudge once. It was impossible not to swing your hips a bit more and wiggle your bum a bit lower. They oozed strong and sexy and I wanted to ooze it too. I just wish I’d closed the curtains as our poor neighbours probably didn’t need the image of me attempting to ooze whilst they put their bins out. Sorry guys.
The music played a big part at this party. It made me think how motivational the right music can be. This morning I took our children to Jungle Boogie (the Boogie was everywhere today) – a 45 minute toddler group that kept both children and adults enthralled for the whole session. The lady who runs it spends the sessions prowling and leaping and flying and dancing in time to music whilst combining storytelling and puppetry into a theatrical experience for young and old.
As I watched her in her leopard print leggings I spotted it again – secret exercise. It was everywhere. She was squatting and lunging and twisting and turning and exercise was happening before my very eyes – but she was having so much fun I doubt she even knew.
Parties are, at their core, meant to be fun. You don’t invite your friends to your birthday party and expect everyone to sit around in miserable silence. The dance party I was promised on the front of tonight’s DVD turned out to be a lot of fun. And Antonia (our Jungle Leader) was clearly having fun – as were her captive audience.
Maybe some people find squatting in repetitions of 8 fun. Maybe it is fun. I haven’t found it much fun yet. But today I did have had fun – dancing around my sitting room imagining I was in a sweaty Latino bar at midnight, swinging my hips and feeling empowered by my own body. I feel sassy and sexy and today didn’t feel like I thought exercise was meant to feel at all.
What can I say? I blame it on the Boogie.