Philadelphia Metropolis


Zumba! Zumba! Zumba?

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By Kat Richter

I know from the moment that the curly haired brunette steps onto the elevator that this is a mistake.  Why?  Well, for starters her parachute pants come complete with bondage straps, and these straps bear the official fluorescent green Zumba insignia.  She's also wearing a Zumba t-shirt and even though I can't see her entire bra, I'm willing to bet that it too is a registered trademark of the "fitness party" program.  Her t-shirt has been cut, fringed and tied back together with all the flair of a 13-year-old at summer camp -- and adolescent summer campers have quite a bit of flair.

Nonetheless, as the elevator reaches the fourth floor and we step out into the lobby, I can tell she's a woman who takes her mid-week trip to the gym seriously.  Any minute now she's going to be the one elbowing her way to the front of the class, trying to intimidate newbies like myself with her Zumba pride.  She's probably the teacher's pet -- maybe that's how she's acquired all of this Zumba paraphernalia?  Maybe she's been voted "most enthusiastic" or "least likely to look like an idiot while performing vaguely Latin cardiovascular fitness routines?" -- but then, as she checks in with the receptionist, I realize she's not the teacher's pet.  Oh no.  She's the teacher.

Whatever drug she's on, I want some because not 30 seconds into the first song, her eyes are closed and she appears to be having an out-of-body experience.  "Feel it, ladies!" she cries.  I'm not really sure what "it" is, but the woman next to me is clearly feeling "it" too.  Her eyes are closed and her face has gone all serene, as though she's experiencing some divine secret of the Zumba sisterhood. 

Clearly, she's a regular.  Clearly, I'm not. 

By the second song, our fearless leader is trying to get us to dance in a line.  We fail miserably.  Next, she tries to divide us into two lines and makes us dance across the room, weaving in between one another like a class of teenaged tap dancers. 

I know this because I happen to be an instructor of teenaged tap dancers, and even though you wouldn't know it to look at me now -- biting my lower lip in concentration and clinging to the beat for dear life -- I'm also the co-founder of a professional dance company.  I teach dance for a living.  I have undergraduate and graduate degree in the stuff, and even I can't make sense of the ode to salsa our instructor is cooking up.

Maybe her interpretation of the musical framework is just too avant-garde for me?  Maybe she's experiencing the rhythm on an entirely different level?

I know one thing for sure.  I did not come to this class to do-se-do my classmates.  Had I wanted to do-se-do, I would have gone square dancing.  At least in square dancing the nastiness of linking sweaty elbows with an equally sweaty partner is cancelled out by the fact that said elbow might be connected to an eligible bachelor.  There are no eligible bachelors in Zumba. 

We're all women, which is why I suppose our instructor finds it appropriate to throw her head back in ecstasy during the fourth song and moan with orgasmic fervor.  I like Shakira just as much as the next person, but, by all accounts, this is a bit much.

By the sixth song, she's taken to high-fiving us -- all of us -- after each song.  By song seven, the regular to my left has followed suit, and I really don't see how we're supposed to reach, let alone maintain, our target heart rates with all of this female bonding going on.

I didn't come here to bond.  I came here to sweat, and to keep my sweat to myself, thank you very much.  It occurs to me that a mid-week, lunch-break Zumba class might be fun if I'd come with a group of my girlfriends and if we'd stopped on our way for one (or seven) margaritas.  But sober?  Minus my posse of perpetual bachelorettes?  Never again, and it's a shame really because despite all of her antics, our instructor is in darn good shape.


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