This year, a kid graduated from my high school who was from Brazil.  I taught him when he was a junior, and I urged him for months to take a second year of physics.  He’s interested in art and technology, and I argued passionately that a better understanding of physics would enable him to execute his visions.

But this isn’t about him.  It’s about his mom, Sandra, who came to my school twice a week all spring to teach Zumba.

She’s the perky, ponytailed, energetic aerobics teacher you remember from the 1980’s, except she’s in her 40’s not her 20’s.  Petite and with a brilliant smile, she exudes enthusiasm for Zumba.

Zumba?  It’s danceaerobics to “Latin” music.  It’s samba, and merengue, and cumbia, and the occasional tango or cha cha cha, with arm waving, substantial abdominals, and sometimes shouting.  I love the music, and I love learning a dance, so it is perfect for me.

The first class I went to I emerged drenched in sweat and totally wiped out.  By the end of the school year I was much better – both at doing the steps and at making it through a whole class.  I liked to check the clock when I felt like class should be nearly over…I started checking at 15 minutes into the class, and the time I checked got later and later, until I would look up to find the hour nearly gone!

Sandra loved watching us improve as the weeks went by, often lamenting that she hadn’t videotaped those first few classes to compare us at the beginning and at the end.  I loved the feeling I got every time I mastered another movement.

I’ve taken movement classes of various types since I was a kid, taking folk dance and ballroom dance from a guy we knew from church, taking aerobics with my mom at her office after school, taking folk dance and Scottish Country Dance in college, learning contra and English Country Dance along the way.  I’ve taken lessons in waltz, swing, snoa, and tango at various festivals and events.  I’ve picked up hambo and zwiefacher, schottische, various polka styles, two-step and morris at various times and places.  I’ve done t’ai chi several times in at least two different styles (William C. C. Chen and traditional Yang form).  And of course there is Dance Dance Revolution!

If I had to rank Zumba, it would be near the top of my list.  The music is great and we do whole songs.  There is no criticism of style, everyone does as best they can up to their own flexibility and energy.  There is no partner to try to keep up with, no special costume, no score, and Sandra never told anyone they were doing it wrong.  She did get a huge grin when one of us finally got a tricky move, though!

There is plenty of “Zumba wear” you can buy, despite the “no particular costume.”  Sandra teaches several classes a week (including chair Zumba for people in retirement homes who are stuck in chairs, and she is working on water Zumba) and has many different Zumba outfits, mostly with capri pants with little ties on the back pocket flaps.  The ladies in the class joked all spring about coming in with strings on our rears, to wave as we moved our hips to the beat.  For our last class of the year I wore shorts with button-flap back pockets, and tied ribbons in the buttonholes.  The other ladies loved it!

Sandra gave all of us CD’s of our regular workout music to bring home and practice over the summer, and it is great for getting energized to do the dishes or clean the bathroom.  However, it is very hard to keep from dancing while cleaning with the music on!

Zumba love, everyone!

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