Over the last few weeks, I have been spending every Monday morning taking a Zumba class at our gym. I have to say that I am not a dancer, and I never have been a dancer.
All of the action shots my parents took of my during my childhood dance recitals show me off to the side, moving to my own rhythm, apparently oblivious to the fact that I was supposed to be participating along with several other girls in a routine we had spent the last six months practicing. When I was 7, my dance teacher politely told my parents that she didn’t think I was really getting anything out of my ballet and tap dancing experience and that it would probably be better for them to invest their money elsewhere. Unfortunately, remedial coordination classes don’t exist, so we added my failed dance career to my failed soccer career and limited my extra-curricular activities to Girl Scouts.
But these days everybody is doing Zumba and I figured that, if adults with no previous dance experience from countries all around the world can pick up the Zumba moves, then by God, so could I.
My first few classes were embarrassing. I spent the entire time trying to get my feet to do something — anything — that remotely resembled what the instructor was doing, and using vast amounts of concentration to ensure that I didn’t kick anyone or fall down. There were arm movements too, but that was so far beyond my capability that I just let them do whatever they had to do to keep me from falling into a heap on the arena floor.
But after a few classes, I began to feel a little more comfortable. My arm flapping became considerably less noticeable, and I stopped praying for the occasional breaks for running in place or squats that our instructor adds into the work out. I even managed to keep up when Claire, from Desperate English Housewife in America, subbed for our usual instructor and added in this twitchy, hip-shaking move that she made look totally sexy but which had me feeling like my hips, and only my hips, were having seizures.
I was becoming increasingly comfortable with the moves, and I had finally started to think that I was getting kind of, well, good at it. I was concentrating less and smiling more and at the end of the workout I was feeling almost as high as I do after a good run.
But then, summer camps began, and the basketball arena where the class is normally held was handed over to a bunch of sweaty kids. We were shuffled over to a much smaller studio, where there is an entire wall of mirrors.
My friends, they say the mirror don’t lie, and they are right. Watching myself do Zumba was like watching a train wreck. I didn’t want to see it, but I couldn’t stop looking, and the end result was horrifying.
You know that scene in Frozen, when the Duke of Weselton leads Anna off for a dance, and then proceeds to perform dance moves so ridiculous that it can only be comedy? That’s what I looked like. I mean, I was doing what everyone else was doing. At least, I was attempting to do what everyone else was doing, but my execution was significantly less controlled and coordinated. And while I am sure that everyone else was sweating too much to notice me, I noticed myself and it was weird.
But that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop taking the class. I’m not even going to stop watching myself look like a fool. Because although I felt like an idiot, I also got a lot of amusement out of the whole experience.
I think that one of the greatest gifts life can give you is the ability to laugh at yourself. When you can see the ridiculous in your own actions and find the humor in your own shortcomings, you are rewarded with an endless supply of entertainment. We all pave the roads of our lives with the stupid things we do. Laughing at them makes the going so much easier.
But more than that, when you can recognize and laugh at your own absurdities, you often end up having much more patience with the faults and foibles of others. You judge everyone less and you relax more. You become a better person without even trying.
So next Monday, you will find me at the gym in Studio 2, dancing like an overdrawn cartoon character with a smile on my monkey face.