Zumba in Cape Town

After being Zumba-less for a month in Tanzania, I was excited to get back to it. I did my usual pre-trip research on zumba.com, emailed some local instructors, and I also found a Facebook group for Cape Town Zumba Addicts which listed a lot of local events.

ZINs take note: they are desparate for Zumbawear down here! You could probably fund a trip to Cape Town by filling your suitcase with clothing and selling it…

I have been blown away by how friendly and close-knit the community is! After a few emails and a Facebook post, I had lots of messages with people offering me class info, rides to classes, and guest access to gyms. (Many classes happen at gyms here… I was hoping to get a short-term membership, but it was just way too expensive.) I’m incredibly grateful that so many people have offered to list me as their guest!

In 3 days I’ve been to 3 different classes.  Class sizes are big here – the smallest one was probably 30 people, and that’s because it was a holiday weekend.  Most seem to be around 50-80 students!

My first class was with the BioRithim group on Saturay morning. This is a family affair – Omar is the community leader for South African instructors, his wife Marel also teaches, as does their son Mansoor (who is the only South African Zumba Jammer – aka choreographer instructor), and Mansoor’s wife Rukaya is also an instructor. They teach together 3 times a week, they also all teach at various gyms separately, plus they rehearse together twice a week. Oh, and several of them have day jobs, too. (I’m exhausted just thinking about all that!)

Omar & Marel were teaching that morning and they were so incredibly welcoming! They have a huge hall at a high school filled with such a diverse student group – people of all different colours, shapes, sizes, age and gender. And everyone loves to shake it! (Marel can seriously booty-pop like no one’s business!) They are easy to follow, and make the whole class such a fun and positive experience for everyone.

With some of their class – Omar and Marel are to my left

Sunday morning was Mansoor’s class, which was overflowing a decent-sized studio at a Virgin Active gym. I can see why everyone loves him – he’s a fantastic dancer, has infectious energy, and is incredibly nice. And his whole family was there to help out and dance along. Everyone greeted me with hugs and smiles – they are all so sincerely warm & friendly.

Mansoor's Class
Its impossible not to have a good time with this crew!

After class I grabbed breakfast with two of the other Zumba Addicts. We took turns grilling each other about life in Cape Town/America, and also talked politics, family life, and Zumba gossip (of course). I loved getting to know them and Cindy knows about every class in the city so she’s been a great Zumba tour guide!

Monday night I went to Taryn’s class. She’s an incredible bundle of energy in a tiny package.  She teaches 12 classes a week (!!), and on some nights does 2 classes back to back.  She’s lost an impressive 40kg (88 lbs) thanks to Zumba and making adjustments to her diet – its an inspiring story! Her Monday night class is essentially held on a basketball court, and she’s got enough energy to reach to the other end of the building – its impressive!

I’ve been in many different countries with many different instructors now, but the feeling is the same – everyone is incredibly welcoming to visitors…  no matter how packed the class, they are happy to make room for one more. The established teachers always encourage new instructors by having them lead a song or co-teach songs with them.  Its such a consistently supportive environment, which is really amazing and I’m so grateful for it. (The belly dancing community in SF was much more competitive so this is a nice difference.)

Each instructor has invited me to do a couple songs, which is fun but also a great way for me to improve my own skills.  Teaching to unfamiliar students in these various venues is great experience, plus its helpful to see how different teachers cue their students.  And of course, its always fun to dance to new routines!

I’m here for another 10 days and Omar has basically outlined a schedule where I have a class with a different teacher every day! I may have to take a day or two off so I have time to be a tourist (ha), but I’m blown away by what a closecommunity this is and how much they support each other and their students.

Dance Classes in Berlin

So after failing to get to any kind of classes in Helsinki (where classes were cancelled because of the Midsummer holiday), London (where I was too busy eating & drinking with friends), or Barcelona (where even the instructors I exchanged emails with had incorrect times/locations on their websites), I was determined to make it a priority in Berlin.

As luck would have it, I found a dance studio that was a 7 minute walk from our hotel. Not only did they offer Zumba, but a lot of other interesting sounding classes like “Shimmy up” and “Burlazz!”. They were very responsive over email and even sent me a class schedule. Drop-in rates were a little pricey at €13.50, but I was really craving movement so I went to check it out. (And as it happens, you get two trial classes – one for €6 and a second for €8, so that was a nice surprise!)

Its a really nice facility. They have 4 studios and a small cafe where you can buy drinks, a lounge area, large changing rooms, and even showers. The dance studios are large with great floors, tons of mirrors, huge windows, and are obviously cleaned nightly (unlike my studio in SF, which I’m pretty sure was never cleaned). The only problem is you’re not allowed to have any windows open while music is playing, so every dance class also doubled as a sauna. It was so seriously sweaty (even with 2 fans) that someone mopped the floors after one Zumba class!

First up was Zumba with Jenny. She was supposedly one of the first instructors in Germany. Like almost every Zumba class I’ve ever been to, she came over and welcomed me as a new student, which was nice. And I didn’t have to worry about the language barrier since that was the last talking that happened. Jenny is a great dancer and I loved her routines, which were very dance-y and a lot of reggaeton.  The down side was that she wasn’t much into cueing, which got pretty frustrating as a new student (and I’m a quick study when it comes to choreography).

She had 2 other men in her class, once of which was clearly studying to be an instructor and lead a song. (His cueing was actually pretty decent – you could tell he was doing an official Zumba routine and doing it exactly by the book.)  He was friends with all the girls who ran over and greeted him with air kisses on the cheeks before and during class – obviously he’s the class celebrity/playboy and I loved watching him. 

Despite the lack of cueing, it felt great to move again and I got a good workout (or certainly a good sweat). 

The next day I went to a Dancehall class taught by the “German Dancehall Queen of 2010” (whatever that means). This class involved a lot more talking by the instructor… in German. I expected that might be the case, but given that Dancehall is pretty loose movement, I figured I’d just do my best to follow. (She came in late, so there was no chitchat or opportunity for me to tell her I didn’t speak German.)

She seems to do a new chorography each class so at least I was starting at the beginning with everyone else. A lot of it was just following along, but sometimes she’d stop us all and say some long list of instructions or crucial info about the choreography, followed by “Ok?”. Everyone would say “Ja!” and then the music would start and I’d be doing a totally different part of the routine from the rest of the class. 

At one point, she had us in pairs doing some very fast arm movements that involved fist-bumping each other with our hands in the air (almost like a high five, but with fists). I just kept telling myself “Don’t punch this girl in the face. Don’t punch this girl in the face.” Thankfully, neither of us left with a black eye – success!

The class ended with a song that literally involved nothing but squats and lunges, which I figured was my punishment for not exercising enough lately.

Despite the language challenges, it was a really fun class and I’d totally go again. And there’s really no need to feel self-conscious since I’m only here for 3 days and can’t understand anything anyone is saying. It’s all very liberating – all I have to do is show up and have fun.

The final class was Zumba again, but a different instructor. She seemed to be new, at least to that studio, and wasn’t listed correctly on the schedule so I didn’t catch her name. 

Her cueing was perfect so she was super-easy to follow. She tried to do the whole class as one long megamix of songs, but the studio got so hot she had to pause halfway through so we could open the windows for a couple minutes and get some air. 

There was 1 older man in the class, who looked so stereotypically German I started to think of him as Grandpa Sprockets. He had white, closely cropped hair and wore black long pants, a black t-shirt, and all black workout shoes. He executed all of the movements with military precision and a kept a stern look on his face the whole time. He was right behind me, and quite the contrast to my happy expression and bouncy movements. Obviously, I loved him. 

The instructor spoke in both German and English (for my benefit) and actually asked for feedback after class, which I thought was such a good idea. I wish I could have gone to more classes from her!

And speaking of stereotypes, there was a Crossfit gym on the second floor which I always passed on my way out. I couldn’t see anything but their snarling bear logo on the windows, but you could hear the loud grunts and shouts over the heavy metal music they were blasting. Heh. 

So all in all, I’d say dance classes in Berlin were a success! If you find yourself in the area, check out the studio!

Zumba in Stockholm

Well, I’m pleased to report Zumba in Stockholm has been a much better experience – I’m completely blown away by how friendly and welcoming everyone is!

I researched some classes in advance but couldn’t tell if I could just drop-in so I emailed a few of the instructors. Several of them responded with invitations to their classes for free (even at the gyms, where they could leave me a guest pass at the front desk). One instructor was on holiday in Utah but even so, offered to leave me a pass for the gym where she teaches so I could take a class from someone else – so nice!

First class was Amina’s and it was so much fun! Many of her routines have middle eastern influences, which I always enjoy. (And she clearly has a lot of trainging in middle eastern dance.) She was very easy to follow, her class was a great mix of music, and her students were friendly. She was incredibly welcoming and gave me a lot of info about the class location in advance. (The studio was under construction and I never would have found the door if it wasn’t for her detailed instructions.)

Next up was Sergio, who was kind enough to list me as a guest at a very fancy gym & spa. He teaches 13 classes a week, and it shows. He’s very high energy, sassy, and was incredibly easy to follow. And he’s in phenominal shape – I was in awe! So many of his routines had so much attitude – it was a lot of fun.

And then finally, I went to Emelie’s class, which was also great! She teaches 4 classes a week while going to school full-time, which is super-impressive. Her cueing was by-the-book perfect and she was soo easy to follow. She invited me to lead a couple songs – I’m not sure the freestyle posing in Shaki Riddim was a hit, but no one can resist Booty Booty. She also had choreography to “Zumba Let’s Go”, which was different than mine and the class in France, so I was careful to follow along and not pre-emptively slap my ass while everyone did something else.

So if you’re in Stockholm and craving some Zumba, I highly recommend all of these instructors! There seems to be plenty of great classes, and everyone was so friendly…

Zumba in Reims

So after all the eating we’ve been doing, I thought it would be good to check out a local Zumba class.

I found one within 10 mins walk of our place. I was excited that I managed to locate it pretty easily. One of the other women waiting for the class was very friendly and spoke a little English – I’ll refer to her as Nice Girl from here on out since I never got her name.

This photo was on the wall in the lobby of the dance studio, so I was a little worried:

The main room was a huge studio with plenty of windows. About 20 women showed up for the class, mostly right before it started. Nice Girl pointed me out to the instructor, who shouted “enchanté” from across the room as the prior class put away their mats. (I think it was some kind of gymnatics class, and the same woman was the teacher.)

Class started about 10 minutes late (yet still ended on time). I chose a spot in the back like a good newbie.

Class started, and it was pretty much impossible to follow this woman. She was often off the beat (or maybe they count music differently in France), forgot the choreo pretty regularly, or just wandered around the room most of the time. One song she had to skip because she couldn’t remeber the choroegraphy, and neither could anyone else in the class.

When she was actually doing the routine, there was absolutely no cueing whatsoever. Though to be fair, she did occassionally shout things out in French – it could have been verbal cueing, though probably just encouragement, but since it wasn’t “champagne”, “fromage” or “baguette”, I had no idea what she was saying.

At one point, mid-routine, she makes her way over to me and starts rambling at me in French. I give her the standard “I don’t speak French” (in French) while I’m thinking “Shouldn’t you be teaching this class right now?!”. She continued to talk, so Nice Girl had to stop dancing, come over and translate. Apparantly the teacher just wanted to know where I was from – obviously that was so urgent she had to ask it in the middle of a song.

So I just did my best, as did the rest of the class (a few of whom walked out early). I tried following the front row girls, but they weren’t as good as my own front row crew. 🙂 Halfway through at a water break, Nice Girl came over to compliment how well I was following, which was sweet of her.

There were a couple songs that I knew, but the choreography wasn’t always the same (which really did my head in). One of them my class knows as “Zumba Let’s Go” (a Jessica specialty – I made sure to lip sync the part Jessica normally sings). At the chorus, the entire room was facing my direction and I was pretty confident the choreo was the same, so I slapped my ass with gusto… which was not their choreography, of course. I am pretty sure everyone enjoyed that.

At the end of class I was trying to figure out how to pay. The instructor came over and I thanked her very much and then we had sweaty air kisses. Nice Girl came to help translate, but it was very hard to understand what was happening. I guess its €165 for a year of classes, €45 for the summer. And the way to sign up is to mail in a dr’s note saying you’re fit enough to do the classes – Nice Girl empasized that this was very important (wtf?) along with a photo. At one point I thought the teacher said I could pay for a single class for €25 (which is still far too much for that class), but then she kind of ran off. So I decided to just take all the info and bail. Suffice to say, I won’t be going back. If classes cost a ridiculous amount of money, they should tell you up front! (And you all know I tried to figure that out in advance.)

There’s a different Zumba class on Friday afternoon – I might try giving that one a shot. It coudn’t be worse, right? 🙂