By Tricia Y. Petrinovich
It looks a little crazy. Oh, the music may be enticing, but everyone’s making weird gyrations, there are random yells of “Shake it!” and the instructor at the front is dressed like a Skittle. It sounds like fun, but if you are attracted to it or it scares you senseless, there is no way you’re trying it without a college-level course and total memorization of the “Zumba for Dummies” handbook.
That’s where I come in. I am a seasoned Zumba instructor, so you can cancel the college course and just read this article instead. (Disclaimer: “seasoned” does not mean “excellent dancer” but more like I have experience and know how to use salt and pepper in moderation.)
Why you should listen to me on this subject? Well, I consider myself the poster child for “non-dancer-Zumba-lover.” Too many people tell me their reason for not trying Zumba is that they have no rhythm or dance background. Um, hello! My dance resume reads like I grew up in Beaumont before Kevin Bacon convinced the town council to legalize dancing. Trust me on this one: there was no food in this girl’s dance pantry. So, from an instructor who remembers what it was like to step into the back row of the room as a student and wish for a can of oil and a cloak of invisibility, here’s three tips to start out like a pro:
1. Gear Up
Don’t overthink this. You won’t need to take out a second mortgage to afford the attire- you already have everything you need! Wear clothes you can move in. Nothing says, “I didn’t know what I was getting myself into,” like a button-up blouse and skinny jeans. You need spandex or shorts, (the thinner the better), and a T-shirt or tank top. Wear the right shoes. The pair with the least amount of tread wins. You want to be able to pivot without catching. If all of your shoes have a lot of tread, that’s fine, just pick up your feet. Once you are a certified Zumba-addict like the rest of us (which may take up to 8 minutes into your first class), you can invest in some non-tread shoes. Bring a water bottle and a sweat towel. The bottle is to put the water in and the towel is to catch it on its way back out. (Unfortunately, this leakage occurs from multiple locations.)
2. Fear Not.
Self-consciousness is a waste of your energy. Believe me when I say that no one cares if you go left instead of right, forward instead of back. The saying in Zumba is that there are no wrong moves, just unintentional solos. Don’t worry about being perfect. No one is, not even the instructor (and some of us are less perfect than others). Just do your best to follow, keep moving and get a great work out whether you mastered the Cumbia or not.
3. Rock a Party Attitude. If you want serenity, take a Yoga class. If you want a party, Zumba’s serving one up. You’ll feel the beat in your toenails and shake your hips ’til they actually move, all while pretending you’re incredibly talented and fierce, even if you’re jacking it all up.
I dragged my 70-year old mother to a class last summer, with the promise that I wouldn’t kill her. (Hey, I love her immensely, plus I wasn’t sure how her will was structured.) She commented that my theatrical experience was in full force during my instructing. And she was right – I know I’m not cool, I’m definitely not a great dancer, and I often get my feet tangled. But I have a stinkin’ blast and pretend I’m a rock star, even though the bottom line is that I’m just getting a drenched-in-sweat work out, while having fun. It’s the only 60 minute exercise I’ve ever done that felt like 6 minutes. So steal my Zumba tips and get yourself to a class near you (www.zumba.com). And for Pete’s sake steal some of my pretend swagger and dance diva attitude. I have plenty to spare.