Thursday, November 7, 2013

The "divas" - good and bad

A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled across this:
On Pinterest, where else? I laughed, and laughed! Then Bry came over to see what I was laughing at. I just pointed at my computer screen and laughed some more. Then I nudged him, because he didn't find this as hilarious as I did. He did crack a smile though... If you're not a regular at a Zumba class, maybe this won't resonate. Here's the thing about Zumba classes, the participants tend to...have their spots. Ahem. Have. Their. Spots. Mess with that at your own risk. Just kidding...kinda. I've actually been part of conversations that have gone something like this:

Person 1: You know Jane? From Zumba class?
Person 2: No. What's her last name?
Person 1: Doe.
Person 2: No... What does she look like?
Person 1: Uh, short-ish hair that's kind of light brown... She had on a blue tank top with some yoga pants?
Person 2: No... I'm not sure...
Person 1: She stands in the second row, on the left side, third spot in.
Person 2: Oh! Her! Yeah, I know her!

See? Spots are thing with Zumba people.

I'd never heard the term "front-row-diva" before spotting that picture on Pinterest. I've been in the front row a long time now (thanks to Rae) but I never really thought about it beyond: well that's just where my spot is now. To be honest, I never chose that spot and some of you may remember my post about that.
As a matter of fact, the front row, considered to be prime real estate in a great many classes, is not quite so coveted in my little corner of the Zumba world. Only twice in the nearly four years I've been doing Zumba has someone taken my front spot. Both times, it was in the yoga studio where I used to go for Saturday morning class. It's not a huge room, and both times, it was by a person who was there once and never came back. Both times...was I bothered? Yeah, a little, but not enough to say anything and call the poor woman out. Rather than start a knock down drag out, I simply moved over and let her be.

I'm being a little silly with my "knock down drag out" comment. Something like that just would not happen in Jae's or Rae's class. No way. However... Having recently become a certified instructor myself, I joined ZIN (Zumba Instructor Network) and suddenly my Zumba community has gone global. Now, because of that, I hear things, stories, that happen to other instructors in other parts of the world. As it turns out, this joke has a basis in reality. One instructor's story (and I am paraphrasing here) is that indeed a fist fight broke out between two women in the middle of her class over a front row spot. The story goes that Gal 1 marked her spot with a towel and left the room, because she didn't want to do the first three songs since they are warm-up songs. Okay, I'm going to interrupt the story there with a "Really...?" Honestly, some people. Behavior like that is disrespectful to the instructor who's gone to the effort to prepare the class and to the others in the room as well. At least it is in my opinion, but more than that even, it's disrespectful to her own body. Warm-up songs exist for a reason, they are necessary for getting your muscles limber and your body ready for the workout.
Funny joke! Or is it?
Okay, to continue this strange little tale... The instructor of the class said that she saw a towel on the floor in the middle of the room. She assumed that someone from the previous class had not cleaned up after themselves and tossed off to the side. Gal 2 comes along and sees an open spot up front and takes it. Three songs in, Gal 1 decides to finally join the class only to find her spot is filled. Fist fight ensues.

Really? My jaw about hit my keyboard when I read this story. For a couple of reasons. One, is that I can't imagine myself or any of my fellow classmates behaving that way towards one another. But two is, that when I go to Jae's class, I am alone in the front row about 50% of the time. Every couple of weeks, a brave person(s) will join me, but most of my classmates don't -want- the front row spots. I typically get the company on nights when there's something going on to cause the group to be smaller; bad weather, community event, etc. So then Jae tells everyone, "It's a smaller group tonight so feel free to come closer." Something about your teacher asking you to move up gives you the bravery to actually do it, I know firsthand. So all that being what I'm used to, this story about two women coming to physical blows was such diversion from the norm! this got me thinking. What exactly defines a "front-row-diva"? I really wanted to know because I'm pretty sure that if my class has one, it's me! So I started running down a mental checklist, things like: "How do I act in class?", "Am I making the class a bad experience for anyone?" So I dug around for more information and I compiled a few lists of "diva qualities" after doing -a lot- of reading on the subject. From what I read, gals labeled "divas" (and the guys labeled "divos"...heh) typically fell into one of three categories: 1) a really annoying diva student, 2) a really likeable diva student, 3) other teachers.

The "Bad Diva" Student
* Might stand directly in front of the teacher - in spite of the teacher's best efforts to move to the left or right
* Might stand directly next to the teacher (as in shoulder to shoulder)
* May try to upstage the teacher - or worse than that, try to take over and start directing the class her(him)self
* Stares at self in mirror (if available) to the point that she(he) misses cues and loses track of the song
* May wear a full face of makeup to class - further, may leave class briefly to retouch makeup
* May roll eyes or make annoyed faces at the teacher if the teacher misses a cue or a step
* May accept and/or make phone calls and/or texts in the middle of class - of the non-emergency variety
* May ad-lib or freestyle on purpose because they like their own moves better - this can include but not be limited to:
   - ballet pirouettes
   - splits (as in down on the floor...)
   - random arm movments
   - uneccessary hip gyrations
   - grabbing free weights from the gym's rack to dance with (which is very unsafe)
   - travelling in the opposite direction
   - facing the opposite wall

Reading about people like that, I can totally understand why a reputation as a diva can be such a bad thing. I have to wonder also if some of them out there who act like this are even realizing how it comes across to others. But these traits put my mind at ease a little bit because the only ones that could possibly apply to me are the first two. It's the issue of personal space. One of my biggest challenges since the beginning has been keeping to my own spot and not invading someone else's. So Jae, Rae, ladies if I've been too much into your teaching zone, it was unintentional and I apologize! I try hard to keep travel steps and jumps small and I feel like I've seen improvement. I've really applied myself to fixing that in the last six months or so, since I started seriously considering certification. Students need to see their instructor setting a good example. If I can't keep to my own spot, how would I be able to ask my future students to?

The "Good Diva" Student
* A regular in the class and loyal to one (or two) specific teacher(s) - attends nearly every week
* Been a regular long enough to know the teacher's stuff - able to keep going even if the teacher makes a mistake (without being a jerk or making a big deal about it...)
* Sets a good example for any newbies who might be watching from the back row by following the teacher's directions and cues
* High energy/good energy, lots of smiles

Reading about these ladies (and men) I felt hopeful that maybe carrying the diva label is not entirely terrible. These stories about the great divas were all about how fun they are to have in class and that they are generally dependable if the teacher momentarily blanks on a step. When my class starts in January, this is the diva I hope I eventually get. The other kind I could really do without...

The Bad Diva Teacher
* Doesn't keep an eye on or help those who are new and/or struggling
* Too focused on her(him)self and her(his) own "performance"
* Won't stay to teach in one location long enough to build up a class - expects to be a "rock star" immediately
* Doesn't smile
* Only teaches to the more advanced students and not the beginners
* Leaves the students feeling like they can't do it or that they failed somehow
* Will rip down another teacher's class flyer
* Will post their own class flyer -over- another teacher's
* Goes to other teachers' classes/events and does any or all of the following:
   - promotes own class/event loudly and incessantly
   - badmouths that teacher to the students in that class
   - attempts to poach the students, reading about this type of instructor surprised me for some reason. It probably shouldn't have, I know there are all kinds of people out there... It's just that the instructors I have known over the last 3+ years have been so completely the opposite of this. Even the ones I may have only taken a class from once (either for a special event, or because they were a sub) were the opposite of this. I guess I have a hard time imagining any of the instructors I know acting so selfish and petty. Reading this, has made me realize all over again (so for about the 100th time...) just how lucky I've been to find myself such a kind, generous, and supportive Zumba-family. The picture above gives a very accurate description of the kind of teacher they are. My sincere hope is that I can be a credit to them and follow the example they've set for me, rather than that other example of how -not- to be.

Best advice: Be aware of yourself. It will keep you from inadvertently hurting other people (or smacking someone with your merengue arms...). And if that does happen, and it will because everyone makes mistakes and we're all only human, own up to it and apologize.


  1. I realize this was written over a year ago, but I just came across it and loved everything about this. My instructor has us rotate rows after every song, so eventually everyone will be in the front row for at least a few songs each class, depending on how full the class is. I'm sure this dissipates a lot of the 'my spot' drama, but believe me, we have 20+ regulars who all have their spots!!! Newbies get special treatment; if they take someone's spot we just move over a bit and accommodate. When ppl who KNOW better take someone's spot, well, that's grounds for a catfight, though no one has ever come to blows. Normally we just grumble among each other and suck it up. Or the entire row ends up shifting a bit so the spot thief inadvertently ends up in a row all by themselves.

    As I say with some of my z - family: 'if our biggest problem is losing our spots in zumba, we are truly blessed!' I'll get texts from time to time "I'm running late; can you save my spot?" It is what it is. But we have a great zumba family and I love these ladies dearly. <3

    1. Thank you for stopping to read my blog. I do it for fun and I've had zero time lately it feels like, to keep the thing more current. Spots are a thing aren't they? ;) Only someone who is a regular at Zumba would get it. I was heading out to a Zumbathon this past summer and my husband asks me, why are you leaving so early? I said, I want to make sure I get a good spot. And he says, I know the church it's at, that parking lot is huge, you're not going to have any trouble getting a spot. I said, Babe, that's not the spot I was talking about. ;)

      Both of my friends who teach classes never rotate the rows. I'd never seen that done until the day I went to training for my B1 license. I can see the advantages of it and I understand why instructors do it. My own is class is small enough that they just spread out and it's more like spattering than a series of rows. So rotating isn't something I do either. I want people to feel comfortable and I think having a spot you can name as "yours" gives that feeling. When I went to my B1 day, I chose a spot in the second row where I could easily see the trainer without my glasses on. As soon as I was rotated back to the fourth row, I had to dig them out of my bag. By the time I rotated back to the front, I was too close to the trainer to see her comfortably with them on, but saw no point in removing them since I knew I'd be right back in the fourth row after another song. It wasn't bad, but I wouldn't want to deal with that for every class.

      All that being said, I've never texted ahead and asked for my spot to be reserved. ;) I figure my spot is my responsibility week by week. Though I may have in the past taken up my spot and the one on my right to discourage anyone from wanting to be next to me. That's my friend's spot whether she's in Florida or not, know what I mean? ;) Zistah's gotta stick together! She'd do it for me.

  2. Hello Miranda! I read your post after pinning your pin. Your article is so true. I take Zumba classes in California and Japan and see all sorts of bad/good diva behavior. Recently, three ladies on a visitor pass came in and tried to take over the front row causing a big kerfuffle with our front row divas that us members are still talking about! I was so inspired by witnessing the incident I posted a blog about it: Zumba is a party, let's keep it fun!

    1. Hi Ray. And thanks for stopping by my blog. I haven't had much time to keep it updated lately. The tasks of being a mommy and all that. ;) But I hope to get back to it later this year.

      I checked out your post, funny stuff! I laughed over number two, the "hierarchy". Sounds about right, and the image is pretty apropos. As long as I was paying your blog a visit, I read the one about the embarrassing fails (love the Star Wars references, I'm a huge geek). I think we've all been there. In January I went to my friend's Tuesday night class, the friend I refer to as Jae; Wednesday is my regular class with her. But I'm there that Tuesday to help her out actually because she'd been to the chiropractor the day before and wanted to tone down the higher impact stuff for herself. I offered to go, be the front row example because that class is only about a year old and she doesn't have anyone in it who's been with her nearly as long as I have and knows her stuff like I do. So after pointing me out to everyone and telling them all to watch me for jumps and turns and all that type of stuff, a third of the way in....I totally went all "Left Shark" and forgot that International Love has a double chorus at the end. Talk about ending a routine early... So I totally empathize! And to get back to your other post about how not to be a jerk: Well, in my first (okay..also into my second) year of Zumba, making such a public mistake like that would have totally been a number four "the drama queen". ;) Now, it's year five for me and now I teach a class myself and have for a over a year, so I've learned to laugh it off and just be like, yep, that's right everyone, even the diva makes mistakes!

      Your blog is a really enjoyable read, btw. I'll have to add it to my blog feed. :)

    2. Hi Miranda. Thank you for taking the time for your reply. I really appreciate it. So I sent a super long, boring message on Facebook (it will be in your "other" folder). You can find me either as Ray Marrero or Zumba Samuri.

  3. lovely post. I enjoyed it and laughed too hard. One thing that bugs me and i don't know what to do. When the instructor forgets a move sometimes i pretend that i forgot too ( even though i am a regular and i know each and every move )because i don't want the newcomers to think that she messes up. I don't know if this is the right way to tackle it XD

    1. Hi, and thanks for posting! Having been an instructor now for a couple of years, I'll say that if I mess a step and one of my gals keeps it going, it's like a "proud mama" moment. ;)

      As for the two other instructors I'm good friends with, I've kept going now and then, when they've messed a step, and they'll say something later like "Thanks for the save."

      I imagine there are probably some instructors out there that might be annoyed, but if you have been a regular in one specific lady's class long enough to know all her stuff, I'm guessing you probably have a pretty cordial relationship.

      I've also found that never messing up steps is unrealistic, and also intimidating to newbies. They see the experienced front-row'er mess up now and then (or even the instructor if they can smile it off) and they're less intimidated and more of the belief that they too can do it "like a pro" someday. :)