Zumba: Something I Never Expect to be Good At

I went to a Zumba class on Monday, and I was not good at it. For someone who played violin for ten years, played piano for four years, and danced for about seven years before college, one would think I would maybe have some sense of rhythm or coordination, but I am lacking both. Despite being generally not good at Zumba, I really like it.

This semester, I am taking my advisor’s “Physical Basis of Human Disease” class, which has made me acutely aware of how little I exercise and how important activity is in preventing many diseases. This new awareness combined with being called out in my cohort’s GroupMe for never using my gym class pass (rude) made me actually start going to classes at the gym. The first one Jenna peer-pressured me into going to was Zumba.

Whenever I did any type of dance before, it was required that I eventually get it right. In ballet, you are incredibly aware of every muscle in your body and having your toe half an inch to the left can be Wrong. There is something extremely satisfying about performing a movement precisely and being in complete control. Dancing and performing with a group gives a sense of artfulness and connectedness with other dancers.

For someone as bad at Zumba as I am, there is none of this, and it’s great. Of course there is an awareness of your muscles and limbs and steps that definitely should be executed properly, but nothing is terribly wrong if you accidentally start with your left foot instead of your right or miss a step every once in a while (or more often than that if you’re me.) No one else is really impacted by my mistakes. There is just music and constant movement that doesn’t require a lot of thought.

When I go to a Zumba class, it is one of the few times in my week when no one is counting on me to get something right. All of my experiments require exact concentrations of chemotherapies, seeding densities of cells, and incubation times of antibodies. Most of my classes are essentially all math and have clear correct answers. There is creativity in my research, but, in my day-to-day activities, most things need to be precise. In my research, classwork, and, honestly, even my social life, there is always a need to be competent and constantly improving. In this class, no one was depending on me to be good and it didn’t matter to anyone if I ever was very good. When life can feel incredibly constrained by a need for precision and everyone’s expectations, this is remarkably freeing.

I might still not be working out as much as I should be according to “Physical Basis of Human Disease,” but I am really glad I found one class here that is a bit of a break from everything.

1 comment / Add your comment below

  1. You should have joined Natalie and I for Zumba and BollyX at MIT! We always looked crazy but always had fun! I agree that it is important to have the space where you can let go of caring about how you are performing. Also, I am convinced that in a few Zumba classes you are going to be a pro and killing all the moves. Keep jammin’! Love, Andi

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