Was I ready to join the party? As ready as I was ever going to be. Especially since a few hours before my first class I had surreptitiously Googled “What to expect at your first Zumba class”. The internet told me a few things, most importantly: no one was going to be looking at me, let alone laughing at me. It also told me I would be completely and utterly confused, and that it was all going to be okay. Which was great, because I am generally not a dancer, so the idea of jumping into the world of dance fitness was rather daunting.
Nervousness and embarrassment aside, can I just take a moment to talk about one of the most significant things I have realised, after just two classes (although, to be fair, I kind of knew this was going to be an issue when I packed my bag for week one) – shoes are important. These, ladies and gents, are NOT suitable Zumba shoes.
They were like this before Zumba. I have nothing to say for myself except that I tend to wear things until they break, and then wear them a little more. (This is why, if you’ve ever invited me to a clothes swap, you’ll have noticed I never come. It’s not because I’m snooty, or even because I don’t think anyone else’s loved-before stuff will fit me, it’s because all my clothes are, well, take a look at the above picture again.)
So yes, I need new shoes. I realised this two weeks ago when I tried to jump around doing a clumsy version of a cha cha, soles flapping. Did I go out before the next class and buy new shoes? No, of course not. Instead, I completely forgot, and then literally 5 minutes before I had to head out of the house, rushed around like a mad thing looking for glue. There was none. So I did what anyone else would have done (let me have this, please) and I used double-sided tape. Ingenious, I thought. I cut a bunch of strips and slotted them between the escaping soles and the shoe. No, of course it didn’t work, but it did make a cheerful little tearing noise with every step, which I thought worked quite well with the Zumba music.
Back to that first class… No one laughed at me (everyone was fantastic), and even I didn’t fall about laughing at myself like I expected to. The hour-long class was fun and fast paced and massively confusing in places – especially when it came to the faster routines. And by the time I left I just knew the next day was going to be a bad one when it came to stiff calves. The instructors are really encouraging, and not just because one of them is my neighbour – that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. (Hi Juanita!)
I think I managed most of the foot work passably. But where I did fall apart a bit was with the arms… I’ve never been one for waving my arms about theatrically, never mind seductively. I’m awkward and silly and a little bit robotic (and not in a groovy 80s way either). So, I didn’t really try in week one. I was mostly focusing on keeping up.
By week two I decided I may as well give it a go. And I did. I was still just as awkward and silly and robotic, but at least I didn’t look quite so much like a River Dancer anymore. I was making a little progress, but I discovered something else that is going to be a little bit of a hurdle. For the past, say, 23 years I’ve been doing everything I can to reduce the amount of boob wobble that happens in my day-to-day life. Anyone who is more generously “endowed” in the chest region will know the struggle. Just running for a bus can be a perilous endeavour – even when you’re wearing a sports bra over your normal bra. So, you develop ways to minimise the bounce. Now suddenly I find myself in a class where I’m encouraged to get my jiggle on. I’m talking full on, arms splayed, chest thrust forward and wobbling free for all the world (or at least for anyone unfortunate enough to glance my way). The problem is that I suddenly find myself having to unlearn two and a half decades of boob control – and I’m afraid I don’t know how. What exactly are the mechanics involved in a successful shimmy? I don’t know what’s supposed to move and what’s supposed to stay still, and as a result it’s all a bit of a dog’s breakfast. Let’s not even talk about the excessive hip rolling other routines require…
That’s a challenge for another day. For now I’ll work on swirling my arms above my head and not looking like I’m being attacked by a swarm of bees. Oh, and I’ll go invest in pair of shoes that aren’t doing their utmost to trip me up – for real though, promise.