Bored of thinking of creative ways of describing myself that avoid the dreaded words “couch potato,” I have joined the local gym though I haven’t yet invested in the obligatory Lycra, preferring to garb myself in billowing garments that retain an element of mystery with regard to my exact dimensions. Ever a sucker for novelty, I decided I should give the Zumba class a go. For those of you who spent part of your youth in the character-building world of Brownies and Guides, Zumba is probably ringing bells of campfire songs—I am sure there was a Zumba in the one that went “Hold him down, you Zulu warriors.” Anyway, I digress; this Zumba refers to the latest exercise craze—billed as getting fit to hypnotic Latin rhythms.
I should have taken the hint when I enquired of Drama Queen No. 1 whether a rumba into Zumba was going to be a suitable form of exercise for me and she remarked in what could only be regarded as a meaningful way, that it was fine if you could actually dance. I have in fact discovered that there is nothing that embarrasses the Drama Queens (and indeed most teenagers) more than their parents taking to the floor with dance routines last seen when Travolta was wearing white suits. In fact I think I may have hit upon a sure fire way to break up a teenage party—join in, with enthusiastic waves and eye contact, and I suspect every teen in the house will melt into the night—and your daughters will never speak to you again.
It has been obvious from my earliest years that I was never going to join the ranks of ballerinas. Pink tutus may offer endless opportunities for glitter and fairy tale moments but are absolutely hopeless at converting square children into ethereal prima ballerinas.
Things didn’t improve much during my teens, though being a Scot did help in the sense that whilst it is obviously a benefit if you have some sense of rhythm in the melee that passes as Scottish Country Dancing, I am living proof that the ability to whoop loudly and bounce around with enthusiasm is an equally important attribute. Likewise I am very fond of the Rocky Horror Music Show Timewarp anthem, with its very clear instructions regarding ‘hands on the hips, step to the left and jump to the right,’ all moves well within my teenage capabilities.
Salsa is a word that I associate with chips and dip; likewise, shimmy, slither, and slide are foreign concepts as became painfully apparent as the Zumba class progressed. It’s no coincidence that so many of these words begin with ‘S’ for that indeed was the seductive shape that the majority of my class mates slid into led by the snake-hipped male instructor.
In one swift uncoordinated move to the right, whilst the Zumba line up was lithely swaying left, I was transported back to the late eighties when I worked for a Japanese bank in Tokyo. At eleven o’clock every day we would stop for the compulsory regimented calisthenics session, when all the employees would stand behind their desks and jump and stretch in response to loudspeaker instructions. Speaking a limited amount of Japanese which certainly didn’t include the words for “Touch your toes” or “Star Jump,” I always just carried out the previous day’s routine which led to some interesting mid air collisions with my fellow workers and my bottom poking in the air whilst everyone else was twirling their hands.
The upside of Zumba was I skipped out of the class, with a post-exercise glow (a polite way for saying covered in sweat) and fired up by those exotic rhythms was ready for the first Latin romance of the day, the downside was that the class was probably conclusive proof that far from being a salsa seductress on the dance floor I am more a bagpipes kind of dancing queen.