Dancing with Rick Springfield
Yelping? The right word? I made a note to myself to ask about the name of the noise – the shrill mating call that seemed to erupt on cue from the instructor – next week.
No, I wasn’t at a New Age sex workshop. Or an Evangelism 101 tute (Ecstasy Evocation for Beginners).
I was at a Latin dance fitness class, also known as Zumba!
So you know, in my head, the word Zumba is always followed by an exclamation mark. That exclamation mark there? It pretty much sums up the Zumba experience. So, for those of you who have heard salsa beats bellowing from your local church or community hall, but have never had the confidence to try a Zumba class, (“I don’t dance,” I hear you say. “I look terrible in a midriff.”) I’m going to capture the experience in this little article.
Perhaps once you’ve finished reading, you’ll want to give it a whirl too.
Okay, so first thing is: I don’t dance.
I mean, in my head I do. Oh yeah baby. In my head, my body rolls and grinds to any beat and I have totally. got. da. moves.
Reality is though, the last time I tried dancing publicly was at a fitness class. I was lured by a trainer with dark, oiled skin and no body hair to speak of, who assured me his classes were “for everyone”.
In fact, the sight of my lanky arms and legs attempting to cooperate with the music was so hilarious it made him break his professional, encouraging glow of “Yes, you can”.
He stopped. Dropped his head.
And actually burst out laughing at me.
There were no hard feelings. This was not the first time I had been the subject of ridicule for the way my body and the beat collide. Grade six disco. Me. On the dancefloor going off to “Jessie’s Girl” by Rick Springfield. By myself because everyone else was on the edge of the parquetry floor with gaping mouths. I looked grotesque. Seizure-like and sweaty. And, grade six being the cruellest of winters, I didn’t live that down for the longest of blizzards and hails.
Recently my best friend, who happened to be on the edge of the parquetry floor watching me as I danced in grade six, told me something. She said as she watched me dance that day, I captivated her. I was confident. I didn’t care what anyone thought of me. And I looked blissfully happy.
I wanted to summons that inner grade six kid.
So here I was, in the local Serbian Community Hall. There was a trestle table out front and a woman in tribal print and a headband took my cash. She gave me the newbie lowdown, “If you can’t get it, drop the arms and just follow with your legs, make sure you drink lots of water and…totally, like, have fun. Oh, and there’s no judgement here so just go nuts.”
I barely needed the invitation. I was Naomi from grade six. Rick Springfield was my favourite singer and Australia had just won the America’s Cup. Grammar was still taught in school and the ozone layer was intact.
The tribal print clad instructor appeared on stage, the lights dimmed and a smoke machine cranked up (a smoke machine? Now they really were playing into my ultimate disco fantasy). The music started and the instructor yelped her mating call. 100-odd lycra, spandex and fleece adorned proselytes yelped in response. They raised their arms in the air and the music pumped.
As we warmed up, so did the beat. The instructor pointed to her hips, did a slow roll and three quick pulses and she was off to the left. I copied. She gyrated; I gyrated. She planted her hands in front of her and shook her booty. I copied. She shimmied. I shimmied. And before I could say “Ricky Martin’s thong”, I was twirling between the pulsing lights. I was Monica Bellucci pulling a guest appearance on Dancing With the Stars. I was Shakira in “Loca”, her little-known single featuring Dizzy Rascal. I was watermelon, finely chopped tomato and cucumber. I was animal heat and heady days.
The instructor called two of her proselytes on stage. One was a woman in thick glasses and yoga pants. Her hair was pulled back librarian-style and her skin was alabaster. As she lifted her arms in response to the salsa beat. And then she began to move. Even the flab under her arms answered the beat of the salsa. She followed the shape of her curves with her hands, from her breasts to the tops of her thighs and back up again. She rolled her head from side to side. She knew the Spanish words to the Spanish Zumba! licensed song.
She owned her body.
And she was blissfully happy.
After class, I wanted to call Rick Springfield and tell him about the librarian who could salsa. And my twirls. To thank him for my best friend. And for the fact that when I was dancing, I forgot about everything, except for the pumping of my blood and the poems my hands made as they strummed the air.
Zumba! I would say to him.
And he’d nod sagely and say simply, “I know.”