I Took Beyoncé's Zumba Class—And Lived To Tell The Tale
Let's get one thing straight here: I'm not the greatest at exercise classes. My typical "workout" regimen involves thrice-weekly (on a good week) five-mile brisk walks on the treadmill, during which I entertain myself with episodes of The Bachelor or old Friends reruns. I'm pretty sure I can't run a mile without stopping, my first SoulCycle experience was painful, to say the least—and once, back in high school, I got beaten up so badly during a self-defense class that I had to stay home from school the following day. (Long, extremely painful story.)
So when my friend Amy emailed me asking if I'd be interested in test-driving designer Trina Turk's new workout wear range during a fitness class of my choice, I was stumped. Aerial yoga? Knowing me, I'd slip right out of those ribbons and twist an ankle—or worse. Boot camp? In my opinion, the only thing less pleasant than working out is working out as a testosterone-tripping weightlifter type screams in your face. Trapeze school? I've already suffered one concussion-causing fall (in ninth grade, while horseback riding) in my time, and am in no rush to experience another. "What about Zumba?" she suggested. Wait—this could work. I've got a dance background (12 years of ballet and countless viewings of Center Stage), I've got some semblance of rhythm and I love the idea of a music-driven workout. Then, while researching Zumba classes in the Manhattan area, I learned that Beyoncé—Beyoncé!—not only swears by the dance style, but has taken classes (along with little sister Solange) at the famous Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in midtown. A quick Google search revealed the name of her teacher—one Samuel Salazar—and that was all the motivation I needed. Amy signed both of us up for one of his classes the following week, and we were ready to go.
Well, almost ready. Since my usual "workout" (remember, for me, "workout" = "treadmill stroll") attire usually consists of an old Coachella tank and cheerleader's shorts, I needed some gear that'd make the more experienced Zumba-ers in my class take me semi-seriously. After studying Trina Turk's activewear offerings, I picked out a pair of bold printed leggings (so Solange) and a black draped T-shirt with a completely sheer back (something Queen Bey might wear for a sweat session).
From the moment the class started, however, I knew I probably wasn't born to Zumba. The warmup—lots of arm-circling and side-stepping—was fairly straightforward, but as a certified Zumba pro, Samuel wasn't going to let us newbies off easy. Rather than slowly teach us combinations step by step, as a ballet teacher might, our instructor dove right in and motioned for us to just follow along until we caught on. At least half of the class appeared to be Alvin Ailey regulars—some even professional dancers—so needless to say, Amy and I quickly scuttled into the back row and spent most of the class giggling uncontrollably. Oh, and a fun fact: If you're at all decent at twerking (yes, à la Miley), Zumba's your dance form, because there's a lot of booty-bouncing and hip-wiggling involved in this class. And while I can plié and pas de chat halfway decently, any sort of shake-your-derrière move usually leaves me looking like the Tin Man—before being oiled, of course. The same goes for shaking my chest, another Zumba favorite. When Pat Benatar does it in her Love Is a Battlefield video, it's awesome. When I try it? Not so great.
So what got me through that hour of rapid-fire Latin dance? The music, for one—it's awesome and incredibly energizing. And Samuel, our fearless leader, was an absolute riot, jumping up and down and clapping whenever the room seemed to be somewhat in synch and, for lack of a better phrase, shaking his thing with all the skill of Beyoncé herself. It's easy to see why the superstar took a liking to his style. And if you're in the New York area, I highly suggest you sign up for a class—if only for the memories and the bragging rights you'll bring home.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, I did not walk away from my first Zumba experience with Bey-worthy abs or legs. But then again, she probably does classes like these every single day. "Pretty Hurts," right?