No, seriously….I LOVE to dance. I know I was brought on this Earth to dance. Any kind of dance. Teach it to me and I’ll do it. I didn’t even complain when Mr. Stanton made us do square dancing for WEEKS during freshman p.e. (Can’t say I understood it but I could probably do a mean do-si-do right now.) And I LOVE music. My parents always played music around the house, for as long as I can remember. From Parliament to the Temptations, Al Green, Sam Cooke, Jimi Hendrix. You named it, we rocked it.
And if teaching Zumba were as simple as dancing to my favorite music, I’d have the market cornered and could retire from everything else I was doing.
My confession: There are blurred lines. Not clear cut instructions on what to do. Or how to do it. Or how to work your ethics into your entertainment. Or how to please your beginners and your regulars. Or how to change your moves, edit your music, create new choreography, try to go to sleep without Daddy Yankee going through your head, forget everyone doesn’t love salsa, convince everyone that just because you’re a Black girl doesn’t mean that you only do “Black” music (yeah, that’s a real one), remember that you’re teaching in the South so they might not be feeling the Percolator and wear cute clothes and shoes that tighten you up, hold you in and support you.
Let’s start with music. Now what I listen to in my car is NOT always what I play in class. If that were the case, my class would be nothing but bachata, Jesus music, Michael Jackson, a little bit of house and Tupac. Zumba (contrary to popular belief) is NOT about just creating moves to every song you hear on your local radio station. It is a LATIN/INTERNATIONAL inspired program, which means 90% of your class music just can’t be Lil Wayne. So, we have to find a balance between what I like, what inspires me and the people who come to class. Oh, and then there’s that thing about lyrics. Now, I LOVE Tupac. T.I. too. And I like a little Jay-Z. And (hold your breath), I am confessing, to the world, that “Blurred Lines” is actually a catchy little tune and I feel like I need to repent every time I start snapping my fingers to it. HOWEVER, I WON’T be playing it my class. The truth is I have young people coming to my class with impressionable minds (and all of us really) and if they are going to be singing it, it won’t be with me. Basically, I don’t want your kids dancing to it in my class. I don’t want MY kids dancing to it in my class. It’s hard to find music that is edited ALL THE WAY because, these days, you can get away with saying A LOT on the clean versions and editing music is 1) expensive or 2) time consuming or 3) both and when Zumba is not the ONLY thing you have to do (most of us have other responsibilities, jobs, families), that can take up a lot of time. And take away from choreography time.
Honestly, I have been teaching for six and a half years and I still do some of the same tracks. I have some people who have been in my class that long and they are probably bored. My reason for doing it? Some people have the “moves” and not the “motivation.” The exercise is GOOD but we become complacent because Zumba (unlike a lot of classes I’ve noticed) is SOOOO personal. People have their special spots and their special outfits and they need to have their special songs played or the class just isn’t right? Who’s exercising? 🙂 The truth is new people come to Zumba all the time because it is a pretty wide open class that seems less intimidating than some of the other classes if you are trying to ease back into a fitness routine. So there has to be a medium. New people freak out when I do a soca or get real turned up (depends on what type of protein shake I’ve had that day) and my regulars want new moves even though THEY aren’t turned up. Lose. Lose.
The beauty of this whole thing is (yep, there is a silver lining) is that these experiences have strengthened me to be a better teacher. Don’t get me wrong. I haven’t MASTERED it. I just said better. It’s hard to please 60 people at a time no matter WHO you are. But I’ve learned to bend some. I’m flexible in some areas (I don’t play Michael Jackson in EVERY class and I get my Lecrae fix as I am on my way to the gym in between practicing tracks) and some I just won’t bend because of who I am (“what rhymes with….?” I don’t think so.) I try to keep my choreography simple (it’s Zumba, not ‘So You Think You Can Dance”) but try to add an arm or a little extra “something” for those who want to step it up (I have been known to be a little “extra”). I keep my smile going (I AM happy to be there), I encourage my “team” (we are in that class together), I scan the crowd to check the intensity (are they dying? are they bored? are they having a good time?), I keep my eye on first timers (I want them to be encouraged and make it until the end) and I tell stories in between sometimes (I’m a real person, not just the “skinny heifer” in the front like I have been referred to before). I take pride in my playlist (is it balanced) and I try to cool down with something nice and smooth and often meaningful (I was a counselor in my other life. Put my cool downs together and read the story of my life.) And I’ve learned that you win some and you lose some. Some people will love you. Some people will leave your class. Some people will criticize you. But when you are YOU and you learn how to be you and still keep other people in mind, learning to go with the flow, be professional and be with the people, there are no blurred line.
Just a Soul Train line. 🙂