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Zumba @ South Mitcham Community Centre

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by Bastion Harrison (subscribe)
Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from
Published April 28th 2016
Be as Beyonce as you Feel
zumba, south mitcham community centre

I have never been one for doing things in public, especially if it is for the first time and potentially embarrassing. So the thought of ever going to a Zumba class was something I would never have considered.

My introduction to Zumba, therefore came in the form of a workout DVD many years ago, that provided a step by step guide which could be followed in the comfort of your own home.

The DVD featured a group of fit young Latino men and women doing complex sexy moves to Latin music. Although each step was broken down into something simple, I found it far too confusing. Neither the moves or the music were to my taste either. It was there and then I decided Zumba was not for me.

Fast forward several years and I had now taken up yoga and pilates at South Mitcham Community Centre, and built up friendships with the teacher and members. After finding out that I did surprisingly actually enjoy group exercise classes, the announcement that the community centre would be introducing Zumba made me cautiously curious.

I went to one session before giving up because I felt uncomfortable around a new group of people; they had already attended a few classes and knew the moves. I was always going wrong and felt too self-conscious, so decided not to continue.

Caroline, the lady who ran the Zumba also held a different exercise class, which my mum attended, but was not held at a time I could attend. In fact, it seemed like a lot of people could not attend, as for the last month, Mum was the only one there. Meanwhile, Caroline's Zumba was so popular that the class was getting too big. She therefore, decided that it would be a good idea to stop her other exercise class and hold a second Zumba class so that more people could take part.

zumba, south mitcham community centre

Mum decided that she would give the Zumba a go and convinced me to give the class another try and come along with her. I am glad I did because I have now been going for months and am enjoying every minute. It just goes to show, sometimes you need to give things a second chance before giving up.

zumba, south mitcham community centre
Jazz Walk

Upon my return, I did feel embarrassed, but only for the first ten minutes. In all honesty, I did not have time to feel silly or awkward in front of other people because I was concentrating so hard on getting the moves right. Just two classes in and I was on a par with all the long-timers. That's not because I was wonderful or because everyone else was rubbish, it was simply because you naturally begin to pick up the rhythm and beat of the music.

zumba, south mitcham community centre

Caroline rotates the routines about once a month, which gives us time to get familiar with each one, but not so familiar that it becomes tiresome. After a month we start learning some new routines and we are all at square one again.

zumba, south mitcham community centre
Hailing a Taxi

Caroline's Zumba could not be more different from the style of Zumba on the DVD I watched all those years ago. The music is so much more fun; it's cheeky rather than sexy, it's part of pop culture, rather than specific to the dance world. It doesn't matter if you go wrong, because the chances are everyone else is going wrong as well. Half of us go left, the other half end up going right; half of us are going forwards, the other half are going back. It's all good fun and a bit of a laugh.

zumba, south mitcham community centre
Polishing the Taxi

Instead of explaining the whole routine, Caroline just gives us a brief reminder of some of the main 'chorus' steps, and the rest we pick up along the way as we follow her actions, which are prompted by sound effects: 'Bam!' "Woop woop!'. It makes remembering the steps a lot easier.

zumba, south mitcham community centre
Betty Boop, 'It's All About the Bass'.

Everyone in the class has their favourite songs and moves, but the most popular include going 'oh oh oh oh' to Beyonce, the jazz walk and Betty Boop pose in All About the Bass, and hailing for a taxi. Recently we have just learnt a new routine called Erupt, which has us all frantically jumping about like an active volcano.

zumba, south mitcham community centre
Beyonce, 'Oh oh oh oh oh oh'.

At only 4 for an hour, Zumba at South Mitcham Community Centre could not be better value. Classes are between 7pm-8pm on a Tuesday and 6.45pm-7.45pm on a Thursday. It coincides with karate classes downstairs, which is ideal for many of mums, who can't leave their kids at home, but can instead take them to learn karate, while they do Zumba upstairs.

If, like me, you do feel awkward about making your aptitude for dancing a public display, then bring a friend along; it really helps make you feel less self-conscious. I would also recommend bringing a bottle of water with you, because after just one dance we're all red in the face, and there are many more to go.
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Why? Have fun and keep fit
When: Tues: 7p-8pm, Thurs: 6.45pm-7.45pm
Phone: 020 8648 3740
Where: South Mitcham Community Centre
Cost: 4
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