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Anything Can Be Learned – I’m Cracking Zumba, And I Love It

Ottawa, November 2021
Ottawa, November 2021

If I’m ever questioned by the police during an investigation about a crime committed in a casino, in a brewery, or in a dance club, I will calmly state “you’ve got the wrong person” before calling a lawyer.

No way I’m involved in whatever happened, no way I was there—the house always wins, I can’t stand the taste and smell of beer, and I can’t dance, period.

I’m 38, so obviously I’ve tried all of the above-mentioned experiences before admitting it wasn’t my thing—including dancing.

I did ballet for a year when I was a kid but I was told it was pointless because I wasn’t flexible enough and I didn’t have the ballerina body, anyway. So, my sister got dancing and I spent my summers windsurfing on the Atlantic coast of France.

It stuck with me that I wasn’t the dancer type so I don’t dance, like ever. My limited nightclub experience was in China and involved very little dancing—don’t ask… what happens in Beijing or Shanghai stays in Beijing or Shanghai—and the only dance move I picked up from multiple Carnival street parties in Brazil is twerking.

But this fall, I somehow ended up in a Zumba class three times a week.

Not just that—now, I may or may not be dancing in my bedroom or in front of the fridge, waiting for the microwave to beep.

Go figure.

I did try a Zumba class once when I joined the gym in 2017. I figured since I had been able to learn kettlebell exercises and the fine art of doing proper not-on-knees push-ups, I could also pick up Zumba. But it was (I was?) a disaster. Unlike in other classes where basic instructions were provided for beginners, Zumba turned out to be an excruciatingly long hour of people going left, going right, moving arms and feet, and me at the back desperately trying to understand what was going on. Zumba? Great music, but never again. I stuck to a mix of weights and cardio classes, mostly boot camps and HIIT training—the learning curve isn’t as steep if you’re willing to show up and work out.

Gym reopened this summer and when I went back in September, I quickly noticed the “new normal” meant fewer options. Damn. If I wanted to take a class five days a week and avoid 6 a.m. (!) bootcamp classes, I had to book Zumba on Mondays and Saturdays.

So I did.

The first class was a disaster but I had left my ego in the locker room and I expected I’d suck (I did).

At some point during the second class, I realized people didn’t just magically know when to go right or left and what body part to move. I recognized a few songs from the previous class. Big aha moment here—you mean it’s just a matter of learning steps and moves?

So I Googled Zumba and “studied”. I’m not exactly an early adopter, it’s been around and popular for a while, but strangely enough, there isn’t a lot of free “Zumba 101” info except basic “wear comfortable clothes” and “just keep moving.” Still I found a few helpful YouTube videos like this basic steps breakdown and I practised.

And I kept on showing up, hiding at the back of the class but trying my best.

Eventually, after a couple of months, it got easier, more instinctive and more fun too. I’m no longer hiding at the back. In fact, I’m a second-row girl and I’m not embarrassing myself.

Turns out the key is to listen to the music, watch the instructor, observe other dancers, check yourself in the mirror, and occasionally to just trust your body to move the way it’s supposed to.

Zumba is one of these classes that sticks with me long after the last song. I feel awesome afterwards, I discover new music, I practise dance moves. I find it very satisfying when I manage to follow about 90% of the class. Gyms are back to full capacity in Ontario and as new-agey as it sounds, it feels great to dance in sync with forty or fifty perfect strangers who just showed up as well.

But this is not about Zumba. It’s about the fact that anything can be learned, even at the most basic level, and it’s never too late to try something new just for the sake of it. It’s about gaining a new perspective and occasionally overcoming past failures. It’s about realizing things change and people change constantly, and that’s fucking awesome.

Sorry if I sound like a LinkedIn motivational post, eh.

Go ahead, pick something, anything, work on it and get good at it. I promise you won’t regret it.

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Zhu

French woman in English Canada.

Exploring the world with my camera since 1999, translating sentences for a living, writing stories that may or may not get attention.

Firm believer that nobody is normal... and it’s better this way.

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