I walk into the church gym. Lining the left side of the wall are people talking, stretching, or waiting with glassy-eyed looks--they must have had a long day.
These people are strangers I have known for several weeks now. The shy girl inside me (or maybe she just wants to get on with it) propels me to the right side of the room, where I stretch and wait among two or three people until the beat starts thumping. I walk up and take my place at the front, as close to the middle as I can get just before the black line, the line we have all silently agreed we would not cross. Something about it screams "TOO CLOSE!"
Two dancers on stage, clad in pink, blue, and black, are so fit they hurt my eyes. Colored lights shine above them, taking me back to my teenage years and the dances where I didn't rest for hours. How I wish I had that stamina today.
The beat pounds through my body, screaming "MOVE!" to my arms and legs. They have no choice but to obey. Following the dancers on the stage, I wave my arms and shimmy. My feet step and glide, I spin and slide like a million bees are chasing me.
I ignore the people who might be watching me shake what my mama gave me (plus a lot more) because most of them, like me, are too busy grooving and gasping to notice anyone else.
I dance, I sweat, I break for the water bottle: samba, rinse, repeat. A spark of rebellion, hidden deep, comes out to play as I substitute my own arm movements for a few of the ones demonstrated. Is it truly rebellion, or do I just like Egyptian arms? Strange, but freeing for this follow-the-rules girl. The leaders don't seem to mind.
Shakira sings "The pressure is on, you feel it/But you've got it all, believe it. . ." I try to breathe while spinning, my soul opens to the universe. I yell "Whoohoo!" several times and laugh quite a few more.
This is the way to get a runner's high without running.
This is the way I come alive, while dancing.
This is the way I'm tightening my body, exchanging fat for muscle.
This time I jump a little more, spin a little faster, a little tighter in my movement. I push my limits, I break through that barrier for the high, and as adrenaline floods my body I'm so happy I nearly cry. Somewhere inside me is a dancer. And she's ecstatic.
This is Zumba.