Tomorrow marks the four week anniversary of the time I tried Zumba in Hong Kong. I had a coupon for a free class, and I thought it would be a great way to get myself up and out, maybe meet a fellow Zumba fan/friend, and as a bonus, listen to Ricky Martin. I am not a dancer. I am not an athlete. I like equal opportunity workouts, and Zumba has always been just that. Some women wear Lululemon, most wear t-shirts from James Taylor concerts. In my experience, it’s always been a low pressure environment, if slightly cheesy/obnoxious.
This was not my experience four weeks ago.
When I arrived, I completed a short questionnaire about my contact information, my medical history (asthma induced by cats and dogs, if you must know), and then a section about Personal Fitness Goals. I left that section blank. My goal was to use a free coupon and shake my tail feather, thank you very much. Also to leave the house because I am new here, and Mondays can be lonely.
Our class instructor arrived wearing a cutoff Yves Saint Laurent sweatshirt and orange leopard print Adidas high tops. He had obviously taken a shower and styled his quite-coifed hair, which was not the route I had chosen that morning. He smelled like Jo Malone. And, as all Zumba teachers do, he wore one article of clothing clearly displaying his qualifications: his was a pair of neon shorts that read ZUMBA down the side.
The warmup was fine, although it quickly became clear that a 12 by 12 foot room was not going to be enough space for fifteen women to shake the collective tail. We sort of glued our arms to our sides while also trying to “greet the morning” with what turned into downward-facing spirit fingers. After a fifteen minute session of finger shakes and grapevines, the true Zumba experience began. But not before the teacher looked straight at me, now guzzling my water bottle because the room’s air conditioning had stopped, and asked, “How’s your asthma? ARE YOU OKAY?”
I replied that, um, errrrr, Yes, I was fine. Usually just, errrr, had trouble around animals… LIKE ALL THE COOL ASTHMATICS.
So it was finally time to Zumba and I thought things were going to get easier. Shakira would come on the sound system and I could basically just hop around a little and shimmy and call it a workout, like I have been doing for the past ten years of Zumba. WRONG, little Hong Kong transplant. Oh, how wrong I was. For the next 30 minutes, I swayed from side-t0-side while trying to copy the intricate footwork of a man who did not teach Zumba as an equal opportunity fitness activity. It was more like his former life on Broadway had come to an untimely end, and he wanted to see if all that choreography he had developed in his youth could work well for a bunch of sweaty stay-at-home-moms on the other side of the world.
After tripping at least twice and running into my neighbor at least three times, it was time for what I expected would be the cool down.
WRONG AGAIN. It was time for the dance off.
And that’s when I had a small emotional seizure and pondered leaving the class immediately, except I had used my only free coupon on this place and I wanted to get my money’s worth (of humiliation). The way I feel about dancing, especially if I think there’s a chance someone is watching (JUDGING!!!) my dancing is how I feel about dying a slow death by boa constrictor (btw, we have those here). It’s something I could avoid every day for eternity and not be sad. I can handle dancing 1) in the kitchen with my toddler as we pretend to sword fight or 2) after two glasses of wine. Ten o’clock on a Monday morning in a sweatbox? NO.
We were divided into teams, and then we were told to dance with reckless abandon to “Sexy and I Know It.” It was like the teacher reached into my psyche and thought, “How can I make this woman feel the same way she did on the first day of seventh grade?”Thankfully the other team danced-off first, which meant I picked up some tips from the moms across the aisle. Closing eyes, shimmying, and giggling at the end of the turn was a common technique. I decided to follow suit.
I shook my tail, and I shimmied, and I sang along as if I actually felt sexy and knew it. And at the end I didn’t just giggle, I cackled. Because if one year ago, someone had told me I’d be taking a Zumba class that involved a dance off with a bunch of expat women in the middle of Asia, I would have dropped dead. Probably of an asthma attack.
You just never know what can happen in a year.