I'm just a little white girl trying to fight off that awkwardness we're known for. Will I succeed? Find out for yourself.
Monday, May 3, 2010
A Time to Be Sexy, A Time to Be Silly
If you have had any kind of correspondence with me since I moved back upstate, it is guaranteed that you probably haven't had a full conversation with me without hearing the most amazing word of the 21st century: ZUMBA! An unlikely match, Zumba and I have developed a very close, therapeutic, and passionate relationship. It's an almost cult-like sensation. Or a drug addiction. Once you start going, all you can think of is your next fix (class), wondering if the instructor will play your favorite song, what new dances you'll learn, and whether that one lady in the corner will fart again.
I have been ruminating for a long while on what exactly has fueled the fire behind this craze, as it seems to be catching on everywhere. From the young to the old(er), the larg(er) to the small(er), those without natural rhythm and those who you would guess aren't a stranger to the pole. Zumba is a female-centric dance fitness class using many different genres of music such as salsa, cumbia, merengue, Bollywood, reggaeton, regular hip hop and dirty latin hip hop (my favorite). Some men do venture to the classes (usually one male per a whole room of sweaty females), and I suspect they have ulterior motives. But, hey, as long as they're willing to do the moves, I welcome them. I'm lookin' at you, Mikey.
My sister and cousin introduced me to this wonderful activity. The first time we cowered in the corner, completely clueless and giggly and almost soiling ourselves with how goofy we all must have looked. Everyone seems to have a similar first class experience. Needless to say, we were hooked. The routine I remember most vividly from the first time is that "Apple Bottom Jeans" song, during which one of the steps involves slapping one's own ass (iethe lyric she gave that big booty a slappp). I haven't quite worked myself up to the point where I will willingly slap my own ass, but I'm sure it will come with time. My sister, cousin, and I have progressed light years with our hot moves and are currently waiting for anyone we know to have a party or get married so we can show off...
So, what is the allure of Zumba? Well, my friends, I have theories. Personally, I finally have full use of my hips, and for this I am eternally grateful. It seems that I have spent the past 19 years of my life afraid of them. A lifetime of Catholic school combined with hitting puberty later than all of your peers plus having your only "conversation" about sexuality come from a book called The What's Happening to My Body Book For Girls will do that to you. I did not realize that you could dance "it" out without being trashy...or judged. How ignorant I was! There's something powerful about a group of women taking control of their bodies for their own sake, to have fun and dance and feel good and not worry about what other people are thinking about it. At Zumba, you very rarely notice anyone else doing anything "wrong" or "out of step" since you're so focused on yourself staying with the music and getting that beto timing just right. There's also no incorrect way to Zumba, as long as you're moving around and enjoying yourself, you're doing it. (And for anyone who knows me, you know how much I loathe arbitrary competition!) I've been known to fear/dislike women, but this estrogen-filled enjoyable environment has helped me to commence defeating this terrible tendency.
I take my class at a VFW post in the middle of nowhere, and our instructor often likes to point that out. "IN NASSAU WE GET CRAZY! SEXY AT THE VFW!" What's not awesome about a group of middle-aged white women gyrating to raunchy songs sung completely in spanish, the lyrics of which they have no idea? Try to come up with an answer, you'll be hard-pressed. Pitbull, you have so many fans up here. Sure, there are classes in gyms in hip places like Manhattan and Chicago and Troy, but I prefer the rural setting with pastel blue painted rifles mounted to the wall. It makes me feel American - the good kind of Amerrican. In the proud, "I do what I want / I'm having fun / I'm bettering myself" kind of way.
Zumba has, believe it or not, helped me with my comedy. By learning the way my body moves and by making it move in ways it didn't think it could, I'm able to tap more into the physicality of a joke and creating characters. Also, and more obviously, it's a damn good work-out. It's the only time I've ever gotten that pukey pain in my side other than running the mile in gym class or during various middle-school sports. And that pukey pain in the side signifies progress and physical fitness! My sister and my cousin look even more awesome than before and I think we all feel more confident in ourselves as well. It's the satisfaction of knowing we're doing something good for our bodies - and, to be a little risque, our future/present significant others' as well... *cough cough* (If this were 3 months ago, I wouldn't have even felt comfortable making that joke!)
It is possible that my favorite part of class is spending time in the same room with the brassy, enthusiastic, sometimes gruff instructor. Again, if you know me, I'm sure you've heard me lovingly imitate: "STEP! STEP! HIP HIP HIP!" It's entertaining and inspiring and hilarious - and she knows it. Her eye contact and encouragement really help her students in getting out of their comfort zone to let it all out.
The rap and hip-hop music makes you feel powerful.
The reggae makes you feel happy and optimistic.
The latin music makes you feel attractive.
The combination of the almost hypnotizing music plus the endorphins of collective exercise makes you feel phenomenal.
Who doesn't secretly want to have a designated place where they are demanded to shake what their mama gave them? And I mean e v e r y t h i n g, without being self-conscious. Every person has that desire. Every person in the world who I want to be friends with, at least. I happen to think that it's more fun to shimmy you have a little jiggle to your wiggle. But that's just, like, my opinion, man.