Hugh Jackman must be happy he’s not married to me. A few months ago I read an interview where the actor spoke about his actual wife, Australian actress Deborah Lee Furness. Hugh loves to wax lyrical about Deborah Lee. He’s very into her.
During the interview, Hugh explained that the thing he loves most about his wife is her hunger for new experiences. ‘Deb never wants to go to the same restaurant twice,’ he marveled. ‘She literally can’t bear the thought that we’re wasting our lives eating Chinese food somewhere we’ve been before when there are a thousand other Chinese restaurants out there. I love that about her. Life is never boring.’
Well, that’s my divorce with Hugh right there (had we, in fact, been married). Because I love going to the same restaurant twice or better still, 200 times. Occasionally, under duress, I’ll venture somewhere new but never under my own volition.
Mostly in life, I find something I like and I stick with it. Breakfast. Clothing labels. TV shows. Thai take-away dishes. Even exercise.
Yes, I realise it’s better for your health and fitness to cross-train but I never have. Ever since I abandoned aerobics in the early 90s, I’ve essentially done the same type of exercise: cardio machines. Give or take the odd flirtation with yoga or pilates, I do my exercise at home where I have a treadmill.
So I’m not sure how Zumba managed to lure me out of my exercise comfort zone and into a big empty hall one cold, rainy evening a couple of weeks ago. If you own a TV and watch it late at night, you’ll have heard about Zumba. You may even have been tempted to shell out $49.99 in three easy payments for your very own set of 8 Zumba DVDs that will help you get ‘a Zumba body’ right in your own home! (Postage is extra. Results May Vary.)
These rather hypnotic advertorials have been running for a couple of years now and while I’m delighted to kick back on my lounge while watching all the sexy, tanned people bouncing and gyrating to South American music, I never imagined myself among them.
Until I was. The seed was planted a few years ago when I watched the first series of So You Think You Can Dance and remembered how much I used to enjoy dance classes before I became a teenager and discovered boys. Then I kept meeting people who had gone to Zumba classes. “So much fun” they raved unanimously. ‘Such a great workout”.
When I discovered one in my area, I enlisted a girlfriend and we began discussing what to wear. Twitter didn’t help when I asked for suggestions. They included: “a Brazilian flag” “a g-string” “a hat made of fruit like Carmen Miranda” and “a bag to put over your head so you don’t embarrass yourself.” Thanks very much. Appreciate it. But what SHOES DO YOU ZUMBA IN?
When I rocked up in my tracksuit pants, a t-shirt and sneakers, I found myself among a group of about 50 similarly dressed women aged 14-50 including some mother-daughter combinations. The instructors (there were three) were in cargo pants and little tops. They had Zumba bodies most definitely and authentically; they appeared to be South American. “You no eat before Zumba,” shouted one. “When you Zumba, the food go jumpy jumpy in your tummy.” Jumpy food bad. Noted.
In no particular order, here are my observations about Zumba: You don’t have to worry about looking like a goose because it’s a given that you will. So will everyone else and if you have a problem with that, don’t bother showing up. It’s a lot like Sudoku meets aerobics; a great workout for your body but also for your brain, trying to co-ordinate the steps without colliding with anyone including yourself. Zumba is very sexy. It is full of women shaking, wiggling, gyrating and going jumpy jumpy; in short, a great place for single guys to meet women. Actually, scrap that. The women won’t notice you and you can’t look at them because everyone is looking at their own feet and trying not to fall over. You find yourself smiling a lot in Zumba. I don’t remember doing that in a step-class. And the music is fantastic. Also, Zumba is an excellent reminder to do you kegal exercises. Enough said about that.
A couple of weeks later, while on holidays on the North Coast, I did another Zumba class, this time a little more hybrid (music included the Jewish song Hava Nagila), a little less authentic (and also a Will Smith track) but still enormous fun. The instructor was not from South America. I think she was from Grafton and helpfully, she wore a headband that said Zumba, in case anyone forgot why we were going jumpy jumpy.
The best part is that it’s dancing and I’d forgotten how much fun that is. There aren’t many opportunities to dance when you’re an adult. When you’re a sober adult. When you’re a sober adult who doesn’t dance his way through Lipton Ice Tea commercials. Like Hugh Jackman.
When did you last dance?