I couldn't tell you the difference between a cha-cha and rumba tune, but I think I exercised to both of them today when I took a Zumba class for the first time.
When I changed gyms, I was excited to see that they offered Zumba, because the old one didn't. Zumba is Colombian slang for 'fast', and was developed by Alberto "Beto" Perez, a Colombian fitness trainer. One day in the mid-1990s, he forgot his regular music and pulled out the Latin-music tapes that he had in his car. His improvised movements based on Latin dances such as the merengue, salsa, samba, and flamenco caught on, and now Zumba classes can be found in many countries around the world.
When I got to the gym the group exercise room was empty, but by the time class started the room was filled. I was a little apprehensive about trying something new, because it seemed like everyone else knew what they were doing, but once the instructor got the music cranked up and the bass line was pumping through the speakers, I decided I wasn't going to worry about looking silly. It was a real party atmosphere!
One of the best parts of Zumba is that it's like a dance class with Latin rhythms that make it easy to move to the beat. The instructor didn't do a whole lot of talking. For the most part everyone just imitated her moves, a combination of fast and slow rhythms, which were simple and repeated multiple times during a song. I got a little more winded than I would have expected; I did a lot of walking as an enumerator, but it wasn't particularly aerobic.
As the class moved into high gear, there was a lot of shimmying and swaying going on. I tried not to look at myself in the mirrors that lined two sides of the room; I didn't really want to know what I looked like. The instructor also added a few hip-hop moves. This body does NOT pop, but did the best I could. No one was paying attention to how I looked.
I couldn't believe how fast the hour went! Since Zumba is offered several times throughout the week, I'll be able to attend regularly and get really good at it.