I’ve nicknamed her Tigger. She’s my Zumba instructor for an hour every Tuesday evening and, like A.A. Milne’s orange-striped character, she knows how to bounce.
She also happens to style her hair in a most definite orange hue. But it’s her bounciness that sprung the nickname for me. When I told her, she laughed, admitting Tigger has been her nickname since she was a kid.
No surprise there.
If I were to give myself a nickname in Zumba class, it would definitely be Winnie the Pooh. I’m not quite so sluggish to be called Eyeore, nor am I nimble like Piglet. No, when the music starts up, I amble. Bear-like.
Zumba, for those of you not familiar with the term, is a dance-fitness program that involves nonstop moves to the beat of lively music, often salsa or merengue, with strains of hip-hop and the mambo thrown into the mix. The moves range from martial arts to belly dancing, with lunges and squats and twirls and pivots all part of the routine.
I have two hours of Zumba under my belt (which hopefully is tightening). There are at least eight hours more in my future. I am hoping, by the end of it all, to move a little more rhythmically, pivot with ease and shake the things that need to be shaken without giving a serious thought to what I look like.
I want, actually, to look like Tigger.
This will never happen, of course. She’s tall and long-legged. I’m short and squat. She loves exercise. I endure it. She’s the epitome of pure joy all through class. I’m having a sort of agonized fun.
It’s actually her joy that I want, even more than the toned body (I’ve given up on ever expecting that of myself). When Tigger leads us in the Zumba class, she’s grinning from ear to ear, her heart bursting with pleasure. It shows on her face.
She reminds me of Eric Liddell, the Olympian made famous by the 1980s movie, Chariots of Fire. Liddell was such a fast runner that he was nicknamed the Flying Scotsman.
He won the men’s 400 metres in the 1924 Olympics but it was the movie about his life that brought him cultural fame so many years later. When asked about his speed, he had this to say: “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run, I feel his pleasure.”
I’ve been thinking about that quote ever since Tigger cranked up the first song in Zumba class and began to bounce with such style and verve. Then, my mind, much more able to make great leaps than my body, switched from listening to the voice of Eric Liddell and begin to hear Tigger instead.
“Bouncing,” he famously said, “is what Tiggers do best.”
The Tigger at the front of my Zumba class bounces like an India rubber ball. She’s all over the place, so fast that you are never quite sure which body part is the next in line for a quick move. Hips twitch, a bum wiggles, arms swing, feet slide across the floor. It’s fast and it’s, well, bouncy. I am always at least three steps behind.
I try my best to emulate. But I am more like a medicine ball – you know, those heavyweight balls filled with sand or shot steel. I’m more inclined to roll along than bounce.
Still, I am moving. This is mostly because TIggers have an infectious way about them. There’s so much delight spilling across my instructor’s face when she’s leading us through our moves that I want to improve my belly dance moves, find the right rhythm for my steps, lunge a little further.
Such was my posture earlier this week when I sweated my way through Zumba class in Toronto’s heat wave. Between the heat and humidity, the thermometer was skyrocketing to nearly 40 C. And still we danced.
By the end of the class I was limp, my hair plastered to my forehead, my water bottle empty. I left the dance hall, happy to be heading home to the couch.
Tigger? She was turning up the volume for yet another class, with seemingly more than enough bounce left in her steps for another hour of Zumba.
Lynda MacGibbon is a transplanted Maritimer living in Toronto. Her column appears each Friday. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter@lyndamacgibbon.