The deep thrumming of drums is punctuated by the random squawk of tropical birds. The rhythm pulses, and Britney Spears’ breathy, young-girl voice begins to overlay the insistent beat “this is extra-sex-alicious, and you want a piece of me…” I twirl my hips and step side-to-side, then dip and swing my arms high, first left, then right, then left again. My feet struggle to keep pace with the intricate steps, but it doesn’t matter. By the time I figure out the pattern, we are on to the next variation, now lunging, twirling, then lunging in the other direction.
“Shake that booty” Mary calls out, and a room full of wagging booty undulates around me. I am the oldest and heaviest in this Zumba class. All around me, young women in Spandex fly through the air, their lithe bodies easily jumping with the moves. I am determined not to falter, not to give up mid-class, even though I consider it constantly. But I love this stuff!
In the front of the room, Mary keeps up a fast pace. Her pony tail swings from side to side, and she wears a headset with a tiny microphone. “Single single, double” she shouts. “Take a walk”, then “Back it up”. Hot pink ribbons dangle from her hips and her knees, sewn onto her pants so that when she dances they sway and twirl in bright circles. The music fills the room, bathing us in hip-hop, Latin and African rhythms . I can feel it vibrating through all my cells.
The Indian man who always stands next to me in the back row dances joyfully, without a care for the doing the right steps. He simply keeps moving, swinging his arms and hips, and nodding his closely-shaven head, his heavy-lidded eyes half shut as he lets the music take him. Sometimes, when the step-work is too intricate, I watch him instead of her, and follow his movements. “Papa Americano” comes up next, with its jerky soundtrack and beeping horns, and for this one I know all the steps. I’m smiling so broadly that I am drooling, and I hope nobody notices when I wipe the drool on my sleeve and keep going. We mimic drumming on conga drums, then move into a swooping motion that is like picking up fallen fruit from the ground and putting it into a high basket behind us, repeat, repeat, repeat, “squeeze your booty”. By the time we get to the stretches at the end of the hour, I am soaked with perspiration, but completely blissed out. I made it for the whole hour! With the sound of that vibrant music still reverberating in my head, I'm off to the showers.