In an effort to stop this 46-year-old body from sliding into total disrepair, I joined a fancy gym. My gym features eucalyptus chilled towels and patrons who look like they don't need to go to a gym. It's definitely an investment and I'm committed to getting my money's worth, which is why I started taking classes -- yoga, pilates, power napping (apparently there's a proper way to nap) and my favorite, Zumba.
What started as a way to milk every cent out of my gym membership has become a bit of an obsession. For me Zumba is like going to the club only you're not the only 40-something dancing hard and sweating like you're going through the change.
Before I took a class I thought it was just another exercise fad, after all in the '90s I did my share of Tae-bo! However, going inside the world of Zumba Fitness, I realized it's a movement. I attended the Zumba Instructors Conference held at in Los Angeles and with over 3,000 global instructors in attendance it felt like an old time religion revival meeting mixed with a '90s dance rave with a dollop of family reunion mixed in for good measure.
The conference opened on Valentine's Day, partnering with Vagina Monologues playwright Eve Ensler's global movement, One Billion Rising. One Billion Rising was created to encourage women and the men who love them to rise and dance to end violence against women. Zumba with over 14 million followers worldwide was the perfect partner. Actors Sufe Bradshaw, Frances Fisher, Dylan McDermott and Jane Fonda gave rousing speeches while Zumba aficionados performed a routine created by Fame choreographer, Debbie Allen.
Every movement must have an icon, someone who can compel grown women and more than a few men to squeal like teen girls at a Justin Beiber concert; Zumba's icon is co-founder Beto Perez. Beto is the perfect blend of machismo and charming boy next door, who just happens to move like Jagger. I took a master class with Beto and I was thrusting my pelvis and shaking my moneymaker so hard I'm sure I could get a deal with Vivid Video!
After I cooled down to a PG-13 rating, I attended the "Zumba Fitness Concert," held at the L.A. Convention Center. The concert rivaled the Grammy's (except with no wardrobe restrictions, but I definitely had side boob) Lil Jon, a Zumba collaborator opened up the show with a raucous performance. The crowd was thrilled when he debuted a track created in a partnership with Zumba, "Work", well OKAY! He also announced a new Zumba Nightclub series event he's a part of it. Now you can head to your local club, see Lil Jon perform and exercise, at the SAME DAMN TIME!
Next up was Beto, performing various Zumba routines complete with wardrobe changes and global shoutouts (the Mexican set had a mariachi band in sombreros, the Russian set featured trapper hats and violins); there was a LED set (very Will.I.Am). Once Beto's set was over it was time for the headliner, Pitbull. Full disclosure, I'm a huge Pitbull fan, I love his music and I also love that he dresses like a Miami businessman. Pitbull went through the full set of his hits; it was like a Miami New Year's Eve celebration except everyone was sober (well, I had several cocktails, but everyone else was sober).
The next day it was time for business, the keynote session. Granted, Zumba's keynote had folks "twerking" in the aisles at 8 a.m. -- good morning! However, the session wasn't all high kicks and Harlem Shakes. By the time keynote speaker Suzanne Somers came on stage with a manifesto about the power of exercise and hormone therapy, I was ready to buy stock in the company.
I had fun during the day, but just like the J.Lo song played in every Zumba classes I've ever attended, I was "Waiting for Tonight." The closing night festivities were a "Classic Hollywood" costume event (RuPaul Drag Race contestants take note) lots of shimmery short dresses, thigh high slits, Lycra and assorted Skittle colored wigs.
After spending three days in a Zumba utopia, I'm convinced I've been approaching Zumba all wrong. My fancy gym class is way too somber; I need to go where feather boas, neon leggings and ankle bracelets with bells are welcome!