How Zumba Has Taught Me to Be Fearless

I have anything but a dancer’s body, but somehow, I found myself enrolled in dance classes until high school. Ballet and tap dance in pre-school, classical and lyrical in elementary school, and hip-hop in middle school. I have always felt most comfortable pursuing the performing arts as opposed to the visual arts (I can draw a bad-ass stick figure though), and taking piano and singing lessons for nearly 12 years definitely has boosted my confidence.

I originally quit dance to focus on my piano and vocal performance abilities, but I now question if there was more to my decision. At the end of eighth grade dance, I was the most petite, definitely heftier than many of the girls in my class, less flexible than some of the boys, and to be honest, “not that into it” anymore. There was something restrictive about practicing a choreographed piece for hours. I was focusing so hard on nailing each move exactly as my instructor had demonstrated that I could not channel enough creative energy to really “make it my own.”

SWEAT (Schedule Weekly Exercise and Activity Times) classes are free for Rice students at the rec center and range from Spinning to Aqua-Fit and Zumba. I had missed all opportunities to try out Zumba in high school with my soccer team, so I made a point to attend a few Zumba classes during my first year at Rice. I went with different friends each class, and at the end of each time, I was more than satisfied by the amount of fun I had and by how much exercise I was actually able to accomplish (because how can exercise be fun, right?) :).

I began going this summer with my two roommates, who got me even more hooked because they are very diligent about attending class twice (or even three times) each week. Before going to my first summer class, I joked with one of my roommates about being the worst one in the class–and sure enough, I probably am. 🙂

But honestly, who cares? Certainly there are times when I feel uncomfortable about my body, my awkwardness, my imperfections, etc., but all of these concerns dissolve when I’m attempting to follow the Zumba instructor or creating my own moves because I can’t “twerk” as fast as she can (yes, there is twerking involved in Zumba). The class is also cleverly designed with mirrors on each side of the room, so I am forced to look at myself, as silly as I might appear. I break out in laughter each time I mess up the rhythm or choose the wrong side. But again with the group mentality idea I discussed in one of my posts about exercising, I’m pushed to sync back up with everyone else and contribute my fair share to the tank of energy that’s building within the space.

I smile so wide throughout each class period, and no matter my mood coming into the class, I am SO ecstatic once it’s over. I never thought a form of dance would be my channel of unrestrained self-expression these days, but Zumba has become such a priority for my personal well-being and source of relaxation. I’m even inspired to research how to become a certified Zumba instructor.

So the moral of my story is to find some hobby that enables you to feel comfortable while acting absolutely ridiculous and uninhibited. This hobby could even develop into a passion and lead to new opportunities down the road.

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