Pulse Dance Studio, Zumba with Onyeka

THE BASICS: So, I have known about Zumba for a few years now, but never tried a class. What makes it different from a normal salsa or street dance class exactly? I knew it was a latin-infused dance, and so I was pretty much just relying on my genes to make me good at it! I thought I best wikipedia it (the height of sophisticated research) before heading along, so I knew what to expect. Apparently it includes aerobics, hip-hop, samba, salsa, mambo and martial-arts. Sounds good to me! Get jigggggyyyyyyy!

THE BITCHES: Carly and Laura

THE CLASS: Laura had been suggesting I join her at her weekly Zumba class for a while- and I decided to oblige. We entered the doorway of Pulse Dance Studio on the corner of chapel market in Islington, which immediately became some stairs, and at the top of the stairs- the studio. It was a sweet little community space.

The previous class was going on in the studio, so Laura and I took the opportunity to perch on a step and lament the fact that we weren’t still on holiday in the South of France. When the previous class eventually filtered out and clambered over us to reach the exit, we headed in.

People popped over to the corner to register and pay our teacher Onyeka. There was space to leave your belongings on benches at the back. The studio was a long rectangle with floor to ceiling mirrors along one long wall, and enough room so everyone could see themselves in their reflection to check their technique. Laura and I hid at the back; I’d watched myself flump around in a mirror far too much for my liking, lately.

We started with a warm up, which took on the form of a choreographed sequence to get us wriggling. Onyeka threw us straight into the sequence without instruction- she spoke us through the movements as we were following her. A litre of sweat poured out of my forehead about 30 seconds in. This was not quite the manageable aerobics-based class I had been preparing myself for!

Then, after a quick sip of water, track two started. Onyeka immediately began bouncing around like a ping pong ball, an energy she maintained throughout the entire class. It was brilliant, and gave real life to the music and dance moves! She even came into the group and danced with some of us individually as the class went on- you don’t get this in ballet!

The format of the class was simple- we went through four or five movements- a lunge, a hip wiggle, a three step salsa shimmy, an arm extension- repeated them- and then worked them into a sequence. Each sequence continued for the duration of the one song. We were smiling, wiggling our hips, and dare I say it, I think some twerking may have come into the mix. Onyeka gave encouragement and instruction over the each track.

This continued throughout the hour, with a quick break in between songs to catch our breath and have a sip of water- Laura and I took these opportunities to giggle at our general ungainliness- much more fun attending a class with a fellow HB.

The dance moves changed quickly and often, which was admittedly a little tricky to follow at times; the first set was often spent picking up the moves, using Onyeka as a visual guide. However, as mentioned, each song combined the same several moves,which meant that you could pick up the sequence quickly enough. By the second time around, you had learned it, and by the third time around you had just about mastered it.

If you like the sort of dance class where you learn all the moves slowly and methodically before putting them into a sequence, then you may feel a little lost by the free element of this style of dance. However, I think Zumba is slightly different to your “traditional” dance class- it is more like dance aerobics. And in aerobics, the beauty of it is throwing yourself in and picking up the moves as you get started.

All of the poeple in the class (us included) did exactly that- we immersed ourselves in the music and didn’t mind if we looked a bit silly whilst flinging our arms around and trying to replicate moves. Yes- there were times when we all spun round in different directions- but in all honesty, who really cares?! We were completing the moves and all getting the same work out- I really enjoyed how free this class felt.

My favourite example of this was when two girls in the corner, who had been so overtaken by the music, just started jamming freestyle- it was lovely to witness, and summed up the atmosphere in the studio perfectly! The whole class was just kicking back and having fun.

I also don’t think I have seen so many people smiling in a class before- and I truly mean that. This was testament to Onyeka’s ability to lift the energy in the room and get make everyone enjoy what they were there to do- sweat and wiggle! As the class drew to a close and we moved through a warm-down sequence, I was left wondering how on earth my fellow HB Laura managed to end the class looking like she had just been for a brisk walk- I was absolutely drenched in sweat and in serious need of a glass of wine. Zumba, you were NOT as easy as I thought you might be.

THE VERDICT: This class was as much about letting your hair down and having some fun, as it was about exercise- there was an almost tangible energy in the room, it was such a nice feeling of togetherness that you don’t get very often in strange old London. The fact that sweat was dripping off the tip of my nose by the end of the first song, is pretty indicative of how hard the class was- it is definitely a proper cardio work out.

THE EXTRAS: Confession time- I really should have learned about Zumba earlier because one of my closest friends Lara actually became a Zumba teacher within the past year! She teaches in Cambridge so I have never popped along to one of her classes, but definitely plan to before the year is out. Not sure if we will manage to complete the class without dissolving into fits of laughter, but we shall see….

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