Before I begin today, I think some of you may be wondering by now if everyone I'm writing about only has a single-syllable name. Of course they don't, that's simply how I've chosen to introduce them to you, the reader, and how I'll continue as I introduce new people. They aren't even actually known by the happy little nicknames I've come up with and I certainly don't address them that way in reality. I'm simply offering a modicum of privacy and readers may infer what they like about what the short forms really stand for. I will neither confirm nor deny. Bad Russian spy movie anyone?
So, on to the topic at hand. I think it was almost three months before I began to notice that Rae was calling the dances we did by specific names. She'd say things like: "This one is a cumbia." Or, "This one is a salsa.". First of all, looking back at it now, I think it's crazy that it took me so long to notice these dance styles all had different names but I guess that's what happens when you get so focused on not falling down, or not getting your right foot stomped on again, or figuring out how to do a bloody ball-change (gosh darn it all!). Second of all, I had barely heard of even half of the styles she was introducing. Reggaeton? What in the world was that? The -ton at the end of that word is actually pronounced more like "tone" than like "ton" by the way. And therein was my issue. The majority (I'd guess maybe two thirds) of what we do in Zumba is Latin-based and I didn't (still mostly don't) know much Spanish or even all that much about Latin culture. Think of me as this girl: Don-day ess-tah el ban-yo? (¿Donde esta el baño?).
Do you need to know Spanish to do Zumba? Absolutely not (unless you want to know what the artists are singing about but that's hardly make or break). There are distinct styles used in Zumba that mostly come from Central and South America and learning a little about these and the cultures they represent actually does help. Well, at least it really helped me... Learning about the origin of cumbia, for example, helped me get better at it because I understood what the dance style was trying to express. Cumbia is a blend of native Colombian and African steps and the fusion came when slaves were brought from Africa to the region. Reggaeton, so I learned, began in Puerto Rico and is blend of Jamaican style and Latin hip-hop. There are a lot of different Latin dance styles used in Zumba, these are only a few.
So then what's that other third? It's comprised of several styles from other parts of the world and these include things like North American hip-hop, African, belly dance, and bhangra to name a few. Rae's even got one inspired by the Maori of New Zealand. This is one of the many reasons I love Zumba. There are so many different styles of dance, such a wide variety of music, it just never gets boring. Beyond that, the different styles move your body in different ways which tone different muscle groups. It's a very well rounded workout from a lot of standpoints.
The music. The music is fantastic. Over the past three and half years of doing Zumba, I've been exposed to music I would have -never- thought to listen to otherwise and at this point, I so rarely listen to anything else. It's upbeat, it's energetic and happy, sometimes it's even funny if you know the lyrics. I read something written by someone that went like this: Good Zumba teachers eat, sleep, live and breathe their music. From what I know and have seen of the instructors in my life, this is pretty true. Actually, it's true of me too and I'm not even a teacher. If I have music playing, at home or in the car, it's my Zumba music. My sons are used to this and both seem to have developed favorites over time. My older son loves a French reggaeton called Hella Decalé and the new remixed version of Ice Ice Baby created for Zumba. That one by Vanilla Ice? Yep, that's him and he's "back with a brand new invention", so he says. My younger son loves Say Na which is a bhangra song so it has a distinct East Indian sound. And I've mentioned before how much he seems to like Pitbull. I've even caught Bry occasionally humming something I know he's heard me playing. For me, I love the songs with Latin flavor, there is something about the rhythms that I just feel an affinity for. I don't think I've ever heard anything by Wisin And Yandel that I didn't like (Líderes is a killer album in my opinion). My favorite song, ever, is Danza Kuduro by Don Omar and it's sung in Spanish. I won't tell you how much of my free time I devoted to learning the lyrics so I could sing along. My family as a whole has been very accepting of "Mommy's music" when not all of it is to their taste.
Where did I get my Zumba music from? A lot of music that started out specific to Zumba
has become quite a bit more mainstream. Most of it has been available from iTunes and the Amazon MP3 Store for a while now. Zumba has produced several "greatest hits" type CD's in the last couple years available for purchase by anyone, not just instructors. Also, there have been several well
known mainstream artists who have made contributions specifically to
Zumba and/or have made personal appearances at the annual Zumba
conventions (that's right, I said conventions... watch out Trekkies!). I happen to be very good friends with Jae and she's been -extremely- generous with recommending songs she thinks I'd like. Who's Jae? She's also my Zumba teacher.
Yes, I do have
two Zumba teachers, Rae and Jae (and no, their names don't rhyme for real, wouldn't that just be silly...). How come I have two? I'll get to that in good time, but I will say this one thing now. Remember how I said Danza Kuduro was my favorite song ever? I might have mentioned this to Jae and she might have, in all her awesomeness, developed her own choreography for it (thanks Jae!).
My father said something interesting to me once after hearing me talk about how much I love this music and dancing to it. While I don't remember his exact words, the sentiment was that he didn't really feel Latin music had a beat or rhythm he could dance to. I was so surprised by this I think I stuttered a bunch of: "Wha? How...? I don't...? Huh?" Given what I love to do, I honestly had trouble comprehending this. This isn't a criticism of my dad by any means, he's simply expressing his opinion. It took me some time, but what I eventually took away from that conversation is that music and dance affect people in very different ways. That's something that sounds simple enough, so shouldn't I already have known that? Maybe (okay, probably...), and on at least one level I did, but I was also caught up in my own enthusiasm for something I love - doesn't everyone else love it too? No, the beats and rhythms that speak to my soul don't touch him in the same way. You know what one of the wonderful things about going to a Zumba class is? It's filled with people who are all passionate about the same thing and the energy created by that is something magical.
Best advice: It's great to want to share what you're passionate about with another person, but it's just as great if it turns out that other person is passionate about something completely different.