Today, a dream that I didn’t know I had was realized.
I went to zumba. In France.
Now, I know we don’t know each other too well (yet). So you may not know the extent of my passion for zumba. I will try to explain.
I don’t enjoy meditation. Perhaps I haven’t done it enough, or done it well enough, to hit that “sweet spot” where meditation feels great and then I tell all my girlfriends about how much it’s changed my life at brunch the following Sunday. I tried guided meditation, with a Real Live Buddhist™, for several weeks. I chanted the chants, I sat in the Lotus position, and I drank a lot of herbal teas afterward. But I never got it.
What I was trying to get with meditation, I got with zumba. Of course, I was self-conscious at first. The hybrid of cardio and club dancing could be embarrassing at times, and even difficult. My first zumba class, my butt just wouldn’t shake the way the instructor’s was. But as the class went on, my reservations melted away, along with the rest of my skin (this is a weird way to express that I was sweating, a lot).
After fifteen minutes of nonstop, energetic dancing, there comes a moment where you forget that there’s a mirror, reflecting your every incorrect move, that there’s people around you, probably dancing better. It was in the midst of zumba that I truly felt present, an enigmatic sensation that I had been trying to achieve since I read The Tao of Pooh in high school.
There was nothing but me and the sounds around me, nothing but my body, my arms stretching as far as they could, my legs stomping with the beat, as fast or as slow as was necessary, my face hot and red but solid, real, beyond prettiness or ugliness, a body doing everything that it is able, music that is good because it is music and not because of who sings it or what they’re saying or whether or not you even like it.
That’s how much I love zumba.
So imagine my excitement when the opportunity to do zumba in France was presented to me. Of course, I immediately acquiesced to a Friday six-o-clock class; really, it didn’t matter where or when. Like all people who go to a new place for a long time, I had been experiencing the mild sting of homesickness, and I thought that some zumba mindfulness might be the remedy I needed.
This afternoon, I met a friend and two bubbly fifteen-year-old French girls to walk to the local gym. The girls assured us that the gym was pas loin--not far—several times during the twenty-minute walk. They giggled and rambled on in rapid fire French. I didn’t know exactly what they were saying, but for the most part, I understood (most fifteen-year-old girls talk the same way, and often about the same things).
Every time we passed a reflective surface, a shop window or some shiny metal framing, the girls would peek at their own image and adjust their hair or their clothes. Another thing that is universal amongst fifteen-year-old girls.
A twenty-minute walk in France is not exactly pas loin, especially in the heat, but we made it to the gym at six exactly. We entered right into the studio from the front door. A short, muscular man with tattoos on his arms was standing at the front of the big room. “Le professeur,” whispered one of the girls.
The class consisted of five high school girls, including our guides, and a gaggle of ladies I would describe as somewhere between middle-aged and elderly. I observed them for a moment, listening to them speak French so naturally, wondering if I would ever be able to talk like that.
Class began when le professeur turned on a small radio. I wouldn’t say the music blasted from the speakers, but I could hear it. It was an American song I recognized, with English lyrics that I somehow knew. As usual, it took some time to warm up. But soon, I was there, not in a different country, not in the dark places that my head sometimes wants to go, not in the worries and the fantasies that plague me.
At the end of class, the instructor turned and spoke to me, fast and in French. I have no idea what he said to me, but it was maybe something like “do you understand what I’m saying?” At least, I hope that’s what it was, because I replied “un peu,” “a bit,” and all of the middle-aged ladies in the studio tittered.
Un peu. That might be how much I ever understand. But when I’m able to strip life down to its barest, simplest form, even if I can only do that once in a while and with a lot of prior kvetching and effort, un peu is enough.
Basically, I really recommend zumba.