A first time Zumba experience

by Erik Dobko

In a room full of tank top clad behemoths ceaselessly lifting beams of metal in violent opposition to the forces of gravity, I meandered through the Aztec Recreation Center. I was determined to engage in an exotic activity the likes of which I had never experienced; a grueling, rhythmic pastime from which many do not get out alive. A ritual which at first has you trembling with fear, then leaves you drowning in an endless sea of your own sweat.

I’m speaking of a Zumba dance class. I slipped through the door to find myself in a sea of yoga pants and X chromosomes. The 360 degrees of mirrored walls immediately reflected I stuck out like a snoring narcoleptic during meditation class. Would my masculinity be jeopardized in this cesspool of femininity? Would the instructor ostracize me, callously pointing out all of my flaws, pummeling my selfesteem? Would my feet hurt afterwards? What lay ahead of me was pure mystery, an unfathomable metamorphosis that would leave me forever changed.

The instructor of the class, complete with tight blue shorts and the charisma to make Richard Simmons blush, walked to the stereo and begun the escapade. To my surprise and delight, rather than hearing the newest Ke$ha hit blaring from the speakers, the sound of congafilled Latin music filled the room. And before I could blink, the instructor initiated the lesson with a series of well-rehearsed foot steps and hip thrusts. As soon as I managed to copy each dance move, he broke it off and moved on to a new one. How could he? Does he have any idea how much hard work and dedication I just put into learning that move?

Clearly, Zumba is no cakewalk. I found myself submerged into a ruthless game of salsa fueled Simon Says.

But as the class went on, my ability to keep up with the highspeed dance routine improved.

Pretty soon I found myself executing a continuous flow of spicy dance moves that would put Enrique Iglesias to shame. By the time we were ricocheting from wall to wall with the MC Hammer shuffle, I realized Zumba was something I could possibly get into.

Despite both my physical and mental desolation and with my best efforts to not let my recording device slip through my sweat-drenched hands and shatter on the floor, I got a few words with the instructor, John Nagel, regarding the origins of Zumba.

“The guy who invented it is actually from Columbia; he was a fitness instructor in Florida and one day he forgot to bring his music. Not knowing what to do, he went out in his car, got a salsa/meringue tape…and just made up an aerobics class with salsa music…and people loved it,” Nagel said. “Pretty soon the marketing people got a hold of him and it became this phenomena that people now know as Zumba.”

I got some feedback from Zumba enthusiasts about their thoughts on the experience.

San Diego State student Lucia commented, “It’s a really good way to get your cardio in without really noticing it; if you went 50 minutes on a treadmill, by the end you’d be dying, but here you’re having fun, smiling, and actually enjoying yourself.”

I asked another dancer, Samantha, what she would tell anyone thinking about trying Zumba for the first time.

“Definitely give it a try – if you get lost in the movements, just make sure to keep your body moving at the least so that you keep your heart rate up. And don’t worry about what you look like, a lot of the moves you’re probably not going to get, but just remember to keep moving and have a good time.”

Exercise can oftentimes be a necessary truth one does in loathsome reluctance, but the class was both fun and mentally stimulating. Not only did I get a great cardio workout, I learned heaps of dance moves at an accelerated rate. It was definitely a powerful rhythmic exercise, having to pick up dance routines on the spot and be ready for any curveballs the instructor could throw in. If an arduous sprint of mirroring saucy dance moves sounds like a good time, Zumba may be for you.