Sunday, January 29, 2012

Zumba this morning. Now, zumba is a variable class. According to the official website:

"Zumba combines Latin and International music with a fun and effective workout system. With classes and instructors worldwide, anyone can Join the Party!"

Now the second line is the key to the thing. "With classes and instructors worldwide". Clearly whoever and wherever Mr And Mrs Zumba are, like most of these silly branded fitness classes, they give the thing some sort of official badge, fan the flames a little and then let it rampage around the place, picking up all sorts of bad habits along the way.

So in my short-lived relationship with zumba - a relationship born out of laziness, I might add, rather than desire. If someone stands in front of me and barks orders for an hour, I'm much more likely to stir my limbs into action - has seen my beloved Body Balance teacher put us through our paces in a clinical aerobic fashion, a Polish girl who taught zumba meets street dance (loved her), a wild whirling dervish of a girl who compounded the frenetic effect with the special zumba trousers adorned with all sorts of lashing tapes that whip and spin throughout the class for added theatre, an inoffensive nimble little girl who beamed throughout the classes and was possibly Spanish and my all-time favourite, the theatrical one, of whom I initially despaired but now secretly hanker for. Or at least, hanker for her Charlestons (so not zumba) and her hat collection.

I haven't been to a class of this kind for an age. I keep being away at weekends or at least, more gainfully occupied. And Christmas got in the way and so forth. So I trudged back today, excuse-less and heavy-hearted.

The inoffensive nimble girl rolled into the class approx 10 minutes late and spent another 5 footering around not really doing anything much before she finally began the capering and jumping. I capered and jumped with brooding resentment to her frantic tropical music, promising myself that I would not oh no I would not come back next week for this silly hybrid exercise.

A few capering and jumping tracks in, the nimble girl looks at us (she's been zumba-ing until now with her back to us which they sometimes do. She didn't used to do this but that's ok. It means - perversely - I can try and match her feet more easily as they're pointing in the same direction as mine. And she says "you like my new music, yes?" We nod dutifully though I hadn't given it any thought beyond the brooding.

We caper and dance on.

Few more tracks and she says "I brought this back from Brazil." (It dawns on me that she's just back from a couple of months off. I think I remember her parting class. Suddenly - Latin American holiday plans afoot - I'm alert and interested.) "It's playing everywhere right now. 24/7. It's been translated into many different languages. Spanish. The English version is just out there, right now. But this is the Portuguese original."

And guess what, suddenly, I'm loving this music. Loving this dancing.
So superficial.

The nimble girl has spun round so she has her back to us again. She dances (she's very lithe, beautifully tanned, wearing a kind of lycra strippy top, a lot of skin exposed) and her torso ripples like velvet. Suddenly I'm thinking that I too could look like this (yes, I know) if I dance well and hard. I jump about with more vigour.

Now nimble girl has her eyes shut and sings along with fervent dedication to every one of the words of the (Brazilian) songs.

And I'm inventing a whole tragic romantic backstory for her. Lost love, family tragedy, ripping asunder, all sorts.

A gap between tracks. "You want to see how they dance in Brazil" she cries. "None of this silly formal" she seizes a lycra-clad slightly startled looking woman with a straight body and waltzes with her delicately. "No no! It's like this!" she presses the straight woman to her, planting the poor woman's arms all over her bare flesh, lays her cheek against straight woman's and gyrates around the room. Twenty women in various states of sagging jersey look on, vaguely appalled but flickeringly jealous.

She resumes the class. The romantic tragic story is embellished with scintillating steamy gyrations and red lipstick in steamy seething nightclubs.

The class winds (wriggles) to a close. I, by now, am heartbroken for the girl who's had to leave her love, her ageing mother, 84 children and the beloved family dog behind in the favelas of Rio. Small talk as we gather our things and I offer to the lady next to me: "What must that poor girl feel like? Imagine having to come back from Brazil to Portobello. Portobello!"

The woman stares back unsympathetic. "Yes, I think she had a family break out there." (My backstory starts to wither.) "What I'm more annoyed about is that she didn't do the full hour. I mean I'm not even paying the full price as I'm retired but imagine if you'd done that, if you'd paid six pounds and then you only got 45 minutes. You'd be really annoyed."

Back to earth with a bump.


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