Zumba was like a cruel trick on the elderly ladies in the sparsely populated fitness room: an eight-dollar drop-in fee for overly complicated dance steps and music featuring figures such as Pitbull, who crooned words the women couldn’t comprehend. The twenty-something fushia-wearing teacher encouraged them to get into the songs, to shimmy and shake their chests. Our shrewd oldsters put their arms out and merely moved their heads. They opted for optical illusions in order to preserve modesty, but not hurt the poor girl’s feelings.
The enthusiastic Zumba leader stopped between each song, told them to drink water, introduced the next routine: grapevine right, tap, step out, kick, forward, back, cha-cha-cha, half step, turn, hip circle. Okay?
One meek student asked that the instructions be repeated. The teacher complied–to the continued bewilderment of the seasoned citizens–then smoothed her ponytail. “Got it?”
At the cue of general shrugging, the music began and the steps were followed with vague caution. At the end of class the teacher said, “With that last song, the woman who taught me the routine said to walk in all sexy like you were going into a nightclub.”
One of the shorter older ladies scoffed “I haven’t been in a night club in forty years.” After a pause, she beamed even more proudly, “Actually, fifty!”
When asked to circle their hips they just moved slightly to each side. When asked to grapevine, they took a few paces. But the longtime observers of life smiled, laughed at their missteps, and wiped their brows–the joke was on Zumba.