Tag Archives: Zumba

Keeping the rhythm

Something pretty miraculous happens when I get in front of a Zumba class and the music comes on.  My body becomes a drum and I am the rhythm keeper. The class gyrates, rocks, thrusts and pulses, using my body’s timing as it’s heartbeat.

Of course, it all starts with the music. The music gives us the tempo and the timing.  But not everyone in the class is familiar with all the different rhythms – salsa, merengue, reggaeton, cumbia, bachata, samba, salsaton, hip hop, coupé décalé, kuduro, champeta, and on and on – and how they are danced. I take my tempo cues from the music and the class responds to this by taking their cues from my body.

This is one of the things that most amazes me about Zumba.  The way you can let go inside of the rhythm.  Especially when you trust your rhythm keeper i.e. your instructor.

How did I become a trusted rhythm keeper for my fellow beat seekers?  It’s a wonder because I’m usually that girl in dance class that has to watch others do the moves the first couple times before I catch on.  And I’m still that girl in church that occasionally claps offbeat and has to glance sideways to pick up the rhythm again.  Embarrassing.  But I’ve learned to embrace my inner gringa. And have accepted that she’s not so much offbeat as on her own beat.

I’m also the girl who grew up in a family that would throw spontaneous music parties in our basement, my dad and I dj’ing for hours from the crates of his album collection.  Dancing with my dad, sometimes on his feet, was how I learned to salsa, old school Puerto Rican style, which means bursting into funky improv to the rhythm from time to time.  My brother and I spent hours downloading early hip hop songs from the radio on cassette tapes and playing them back to memorize all the lyrics and the beats.  We would also choreograph little routines to rock at school dances, but that’s a story for another post, lol. Family get togethers for us meant salsa, soca and everything in between.

Being a Zumba teacher has taught me to channel my inner gringa to help make the movements relatable and easier to learn. It’s also taught me to trust my inner time keeper, the one that has been honed by years of family celebrations and the rhythms that are part of my heritage.

The even more amazing thing is that once I learn a new flavor or choreography, my muscle memory kicks in and I can pretty much do the song any where any time.  My over processing mind politely takes a back seat and let’s my body do it’s thing.  I’ve gained a new found respect for and faith in myself – the body knows.  So when you see that girl on the subway with big curly hair and head phones on single single double’ing and doing the Beto shuffle, just wink at me cause you know the rhythm’s taken over.


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Whosawhatsit: developing a spiritual practice

It’s around 4am and I’m wide awake…feeling rested, mind you, because I went to bed insanely early after a long and wonderfully full day yesterday.  Staring off into the blackness, I’m wondering what to do with myself.  The first thing I’m thinking is I should get up… The body knows what it needs and it says we are awake now so I shouldn’t flagrantly ignore this – as I often have in the past. 

Alright, so we’re up… Too early to play words with friends less my “friends” think I’m a nut – although there’s a high probability they do already.  Too early to start blasting music and rehearsing new Zumba choreography – a downside of having neighbors on all sides.  Too early to call my Mom – nobody thinks chit chat is fun at 4am, even Mom, although knowing her she’s probably awake too.


I keep hearing the words ‘start a spiritual practice’ floating through my mind. Although, I’m trying to block them out because playing words with friends right now sounds so much easier, even if it’s the mest up board and I have no vowels. ‘Meditate’ says the voice. ‘Do some yoga.’ ‘Say a prayer.’ So full of ideas now, hunh?  Well, I have been trying to pass the mic to my inner voice more often these days… Alright, it’s time. Let’s see if early morning before the sun comes out really is the so called ‘sweet spot’ for meditation. Ugh wait…meditate…how do I do that?

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Posted by on January 19, 2012 in Uncategorized


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I love you but I love myself more

A friend of mine – a beautiful model friendfrom Kenya who now lives in Milan and has two gorgeous Kenyan

This flower, which I saw for the first time in Kenya at the coast, blossoms only at night. I call it the Moonflower.

Italian boys – recently asked me if I could recommend any inspirational books to her.  This got me thinking about books I’ve been reading recently and the fact that I haven’t finished a book in a long time.  Likely because I tend to read 4 or 5 books at once, like old friends visiting who you keep encouraging to stay longer because you like their company.  But when I really like a book – similar to when I really like a guy – velocity increases and all sense of time dissipates as I become more and more pulled into its (his) story.

I recommended to my friend two books that I came across a while back, neither of which I’ve actually finished (again, the old friends visiting philosophy), but both of which have managed to have a profound impact on me from just the portions I’ve read so far.  These are Taking Time for Your Life by the extraordinary life coach Cheryl Richardson and The Four Agreements by the clairvoyant  healer and teacher don Miguel Ruiz.  The first is about how the art of extreme self care and the idea that you have more to give others when you feel fulfilled.  The second is about how to establish and maintain relationships based on integrity and shared purpose.  Both contain messages that I really needed to hear at the time and still benefit from now.

But something really special happened recently while at my new fav Flushing bakery, sipping on taro bubble tea (my new fav obsession). I got that timeless feeling, went into autopilot and…wait for it…wait for it…finished a book.  It’s titled I Love You but I’m Leaving You Anyway by the hilarious and insightful Tracy McMillan.  There are many little (and big) gems sprinkled throughout this book, but one that spoke to me most is this one – I’ll let Tracy tell it:

…my view of men was essentially self-centered: I looked at them with my self in mind. And that self wanted the men in my life to talk more, emote more, chill out, stop trying to fix everything… But when it comes right down to it… trying to turn one into the other [men into women, all the guys I’ve ever dated into me] is a waste of time compared to devising artful combinations of the two…

Well that was a revelation for me.  Seriously.  I’ve always been looking for the super emotive guy who loves taking Zumba classes and making palak paneer with chapati from scratch as much as I do or who loves long walks on hot summer days in the botanical gardens and drinking bubble tea, essentially a male replica of myself.  While this is not only unrealistic, it would be utterly boring.  Thanks Tracy for shedding some light on this issue.  I look forward to going forth into the world with this clearer understanding.  Sometimes the simplest bit of down home truth can be so eyeopening.

Moonflower in full bloom

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Posted by on June 19, 2011 in Book recommendations


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Little gifts

One Saturday morning, I was rushing out of my apartment, a bit wound up by the intense weekend of ballet and Zumba that was ahead of me, wondering how I was going to make it through. On the elevator with me was a father and his daughter, a girl of about six or seven years old. She pulled a small piece of what appeared to be crumpled red paper out of her pocket. Her dad, seeing the paper, assumed it was trash and took it from her lovingly, as one would take a snotty tissue from a child figuring they don’t need to be burdened with garbage.

The little girl looked up at her dad and, saying something in a language I didn’t understand, reached out her hand asking for the crumpled paper back. She pulled on one end of it and flapped the wings on the world’s tiniest and most carefully made origami crane. I could feel her dad smiling in his heart at the sight of this little piece of beauty in his daughter’s hand that he had initially mistaken as trash, which she then safely tucked back into her pocket.

That was a beautiful reminder for me at the beginning of what was going to be a very challenging weekend of dance and movement to be observant and mindful of the everyday little moments of joy that we often overlook in our hectic schedules and to seek the inner beauty in what may at first appear to be nothing but a bit of trash. There are lots of little gifts like this out there in our day to day just waiting for us to claim by simply noticing them…

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Posted by on April 12, 2011 in Zumba journey begins


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