UBC's Largest Zumba: All embarrassment aside, a fun way to spend an afternoon

“High energy,” that’s what Zumba instructor Kirby Rae Snell said is her favourite thing about the Latin American influenced dance workout — and high energy it was at UBC's Largest Zumba.

I arrived early for the Thrive week event because I’m a keener for new activities. Admittedly, I was a bit nervous for my first Zumba experience. Luckily for me, as I walked in I made friends with another girl who was also wandering the vast expanse of the gym alone. The two of us chatted and found our way to the centre of the crowd, a few rows back from the stage — leaving the front open for those more accomplished in their Zumba careers.

My background is in gymnastics and I would say my organized dance skills are stiff, awkward and more than a little embarrassing. As we got started, the feeling of losing inhibitions to dance that generally occurs in the clubs late at night or alone in the shower did not take effect. I was extremely focused as I tried to position myself in the best place to see the instructor’s feet, hoping that a good view of the required steps would improve my chances of not looking like a fool.

Once I found my footing though, and with my new friend dancing alongside me, I followed along as best I could to the loud salsa inspired music playing from the speakers beside the stage.

The moves were fast but repetitive enough to get the hang of, at least by the last go around in my case. The whole event was energizing and fun and I found myself laughing every time we started a new dance — although in between these moments of laughter my face must have showed lines of serious concentration.

The dances switched every six or seven minutes with a little break to have a sip of water and to apologize to another girl next to me whom I had hit with an overly excited limb during the dance before. Then it was back on the floor to sweat and learn some more moves.

After the class had finished I was able to catch up with Snell, the instructor, and find out a little more about why she teaches Zumba. Snell explained that her background includes teaching hip-hop to youths, but that she finds that the joy of salsa music helps to calm kids down.

Here at UBC, with just over a month left of classes and assignments piling up, a chance let loose, get some exercise and experience the calming beats of salsa was the perfect way to spend a Friday afternoon — all embarrassment aside.