Wednesday, 17 October 2012

a hippo dancing zumba

The last row is where I choose to be in Zumba class.

V. and I are back from the most wonderful vacation in Greece. We managed to see all of V.'s Greek family and still had lots of time for ourselves to relax by the ocean, play golf, sunbathe and, well, eat! Tzatziki, feta cheese, whole fat yoghurt with honey, moussaka and the famous short-bread "kourabiedes" put an extra layer of fat on my hips and belly, thus, V. and I are on a strict diet consisting of smoothies, caprese, minestra and salads. No snacks allowed.

Of course I came back with a few recipes from some of V.'s aunts, but since my knowledge of Greek can be summed up in four words: oreo=beautiful, kala=good/well, siga-siga=slowly and daxi=okay  I'm not sure I got everything down right and need to make these dishes before publishing them on here and that will have to wait also because my filled-up-to-the-top fat cells need to be emptied first. Eating only healthy food might not do the trick, an exercise plan needs to be established. So why not try what has been advertized on facebook, TV and in magazines for months: the magical ZUMBA.
Up and down: the feet of the Zumba instructor know where to step next.
Everyone says it's more like a party rather than a workout when you dance and build muscles to latin rhythms. According to Wikipedia there are 12 million people in more than 126 countries participating in this Columbian dance fitness program that includes elements of salsa, hip-hop, soca, merengue, mambo and belly dance.There must be some Zumba fans who are just like me and have less sense of coordination than the leaves of a poplar in the wind. If 12 million people like to work out this way surely would I, right?
So I fish my long unused gym bag from underneath the bed, put my Lululemon yoga pants and a baggy, long-sleeve shirt that covers my belly roll and off I go... when I see that it is pouring outside. The perfect excuse to stop my adventure right here and then. Too bad that I promised my friend and co-worker Teresa to be there tonight. She is not just another Zumba fanatic, she is also the instructor herself. Shoot. I grab the umbrella, a hoodie, my bag and run to the car.
Other than one girl who is definitely in her teens and a lady in her 60s I seem to fit right into the group of mid-thirties Zumba women at the local gym. Of course, a towel would have been nice, all the girls got one except me. Should have thought about this. A good reason to leave and never try this out, I am thinking when I hear Teresa welcoming the group with a cheerful "Allora ragazze," and I know there is no escape.
Drum music resounds from the stereo's speakers and 15 women move in sync, just I remain a statue and observe. Left, right, left right - seems fairly easy. I start moving. "And the hips," shouts Teresa. I move the hips in a circle-like motion and lose my step right away. What are the others doing? Okay, once again: left right, left right. Got it. This is not too shabby. "Now the arms," calls my dancer friend and all the ladies move their arms and do fancy movements with their hands and fingers, too. I try to mimic them as good as I can and lose my step again. I am not even thinking of the hips. Okay, slowly MJ. I concentrate hard and then I got it, but what is that? Everyone is moving to the right "And now to the left," cheers Teresa. Her arms sway yet differently than before: up, down, up down, up up. Jeee... "Is this your first time at Zumba?" asks the woman next to me with a smile on her face. "Well, isn't that obvious," I want to grunt back at the fairly big boned woman who manages to move like a ballerina despite her extra kilos. "Aha."I nod instead and realize that I stopped swinging all together. Talking and dancing at the same time, no way! While I am standing firmly in the middle of the dancing crowd and still try to figure out which foot to move where exactly, the music stops and clapping and cheering fill the dancing hall. Although Teresa has her back turned towards me, her eyes hit mine through the wall-length mirror in front of her. "For everyone who is new," she says and I know she is talking specifically to me, "Here is what you do with your arms." Okay now, when someone explains this slowly and my body can adjust little by little, this is not too bad.
Gracefully dancing Zumba ladies.
In the course of the 90 minute class various songs require different steps; arm, hand and hip movements to follow. Every time when I feel like I finally get the leg part right and try to involve my arms Teresa is either onto another step or the song has ended, everyone cheers and yet another drum beat starts.
The last five minutes are the stretching part. I rock that one due to my yoga skills. While the big boned ballerina lady has difficulty touching the ground bending forward, I stick my head through my legs and smile. No one sees me though due to my wisely chosen last row position.
"Grazie ragazze," cheers Teresa and the ladies vanish one after the other. Well, that's done. My first Zumba class is over and I am somehow still alive.
One day later I acknowledge some otherwise inactive muscles in my arms and the hip region, but they do not hurt much. Anyways, pain or no pain, I already promised my friend to join the Zumba gang  once a week from now on even if, time and time again, I will surly feel like a hippo auditioning for "Dancing with the stars" while the others are having a Latin music workout party.

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