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My First Zumba Class: The Longest Hour of My Life

lesmills view time 2018-01-12 10:32


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What time is it? We must be at least 25 minutes into the class by now. I looked at the clock and it said 6:42, and the class began at 6:30…
I’ve been telling myself for four years that it’s just a matter of time before I take a dance class. With some of the best dance schools and teachers in the country,  it would be a waste to not at least try something. After all, if I could be in New York at age 13, 14, or 15 and do it, why not now?
The main difference is that I was young, and I was in great shape. I haven’t taken a class since 1999. This also means that I haven’t been in front of a mirror for the same amount of time. I pulled my hamstring and that was the end of it. Still, I’ve been contemplating this for years. For the past decade, I’ve thought about getting in great shape again, putting myself through the agony, and even flying through the air and pulling a triple pirouette out of my dance hat. After much mental preparation, this past week was as good as any to take the plunge.
Mike and I have been talking about taking a ballroom class for the fun of it for probably six years. Recently, we agreed to try Salsa. It was a beginner class, and I was bored within 10 minutes. Not that I know how to Salsa, I do not, but we only learned three basic steps in one hour. And it appeared that most of the people were there for social dancing which is understandable. I didn’t break a sweat, and I burned more calories taking the subway to get there. If I’m going to pay $15 for an hour class, the bare minimum is a work out.
So what’s next?  It was too soon for a ballet class. I don’t even own a leotard and tights any longer. (But I do still have the shoes–believe it or not.) Not that I would put myself in that attire at this point any way. 
I don’t even own a leotard and tights any longer. Photo by Aman/Singh via Flickr
What would be the class for me? Honestly, since I hadn’t done choreography in at least 10 years, I doubt that I could remember a combination. I needed to get my head back. That’s the first thing that goes even before the body. Not sure what the third is.
My dear friend Matthew has been taking Zumba for years now. He raves about it.  Knowing little about it (other than what I’ve seen on TV), I heard that it is a terrific workout, which is exactly what I needed. Burn some serious calories! So Zumba it was.  I decided to try Alvin Ailey, since this school seemed “adult-friendly.”
When I arrived, there were approximately 100 “kids” under age 15 outside and in the lobby of the building. So much for the adults. But as I moved upstairs, I started to see more of a variety of ages. What a state-of-the-art-facility —much different than the New York dance studios from the 1980s. 
Alvin Ailey state-of-the-art studio--photo via Alvin Ailey
I remember taking class at Ballet Arts at Carnegie Hall and there was no bathroom in the actual dance school, but there was a bathroom up the stairs and down a hall, and there was a key on a giant stick that was about four feet long. At Ailey, the class was on the 6th floor and the bathroom was on the 5th floor. No key on a giant stick needed. But I noticed that dancers were no longer sitting on the floor, warming up, reading books and eating apples like the good old days. They were all hammering away on their smart phones instead. Wow, it has been along time, hasn’t it?
While waiting for the class to start, I attempted to stretch. I had not stretched since 1997. This wasn’t going well. I looked like one of those women who had never taken a dance class, never was a cheerleader, or physically fit. As I tried to straddle, I realized I couldn’t any longer. The small “V” that my legs made was uncomfortable and even painful. I moved on from the straddle position, which used to be open at 180 degrees back in my dancer days. 
After a series of elementary stretches, it was time for the class to begin. The instructor was a sub and introduced himself before he started, “Hi everyone! I’m Chris. I will be subbing today. This is Zumba and it will be pretty high-energy for the entire class. We only have an hour!”  
Okay, what does “high-energy” mean? I had watched Zumba on TV, and it looked fun. It didn’t look like anything that I couldn’t do, even with my dilapidated body.
We started. The music was pounding and so was my heart within five minutes. And this was just the warm-up. I began sweating profusely within just 10 minutes.  What time is it? I thought we must be at least 25 minutes into the class by now. I looked at the clock and it said 6:42, and the class began at 6:30! OMG! It has just been 12 minutes. I am going to die right here in Alvin Ailey with a group of 30 strangers. I looked around, and no one else was huffing and puffing like I was. There were women in their 70s and they were doing it. Okay so they weren’t doing it as hard as I was, but they were managing to keep up.
After 33 minutes in, I was so exhausted I felt dizzy. Is Zumba that hard? Really?
Honestly, I am out of shape, but this was more high-energy than any dance class I had ever taken. And, I had taken advanced professional level classes. What made this so difficult? No breaks. Maybe 30 seconds to wipe the sweat and grab a chug of water. That was it. In a dance class, there’s always critique, and students are broken down into groups. Everyone gets a rest between combinations. This class was non-stop cardio with hip-hop, jazz, salsa, and God knows what else thrown into the mix, and the music was super fast. I could barely keep in time. Let me just tell you this was NOTHING like what I saw on the “Today Show.” Damn Hoda and Kathie Lee.
Finally it was almost over, and we did the “cool down” which was as intense as the warm up in most jazz classes. Then, thank God it ended, and I was still breathing.
I asked another girl who had been there before,”Is it always like this? This tough?”
She replied, “It is typically high-energy, but this is probably higher than most.”
Lucky me. My first Zumba experience was the most advanced, requiring the highest level of stamina and coordination of any Zumba class on the planet. 
I thanked Chris after the class, and he was really friendly. He said that I did great (of course) and that I was really ‘kickin it the whole time.” He couldn’t believe that it was my first class and that I lasted. Neither could I. He said that Zumba would build my endurance, so that I could get back into a dance class. There were a few people who left after about 45-50 minutes. I was determined to finish, even though it felt like 2.5 hours of torture rather than just one. 
                                              Zumba builds endurance                      Photo by ah zut via Flickr
Will I try again? I thought about today, but I am still pretty stiff.  Maybe in another four or five days, I will be ready for more. I might add that I have searched the internet looking for videos that resemble Chris’s class and I have found none with combinations as demanding or as intricate.
Although my tutu-wearing days are in the past, maybe Zumba will push me to get the mind back first, followed by my body.  Maybe that triple pirouette is somewhere in my future, after all.

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