We swing our hips, the coins sewn to our hip scarves jingle and we are transported. And how we crave our weekly passport stamped! We are living in a Western Michigan Winter. The frigid cold has taken over our sweet little lakeside town and we wrap ourselves tight against the fierce wind putting our heads down as we travel from warm house to cold car to WalMart and back again. Our world has shrunk, the grey clouds hang low heavy with snow and our skin, every inch covered, hungers for sunshine.
We are the 9am Zumba class at the Shoreline wellness center. Six generations of women smiling, shaking, shuffling, sweating, bopping and sometimes busting out laughing into a dance room mirror. We play dress up putting on colorful scarves and sounding like a troupe of gypsies ready for a performance. Our resident male, very cooly plays hollow sounding sticks, keeping us on rhythm. And how we truly need the help! The dark days of winter have slowed down our cycles, and all we want to do is crawl under electric blankets and hibernate.
We are short women, tall graceful women and everything in between packed with color and getting our grooves on to the sound of warmer climes. Most of the time we glue our eyes on our fearless leader, edging us over country border lines but sometimes, just sometimes, a woman finds her eyes closed and lost in the steel drum beat gets carried off in her own imagination and we all nod having been to that same locale.
Bollywood and hip-hop and salsa compel us to move in ways my strict Christian School upbringing would not have approved. Prom at my high school included a “Grand March,” no jazz or techno beats to get endorphins surging.
The Latin beats take me back to the park in Dominican Republic where I was taught to Meringa with a class of children in uniforms after a long day at a Medical clinic with my dad. Or the time when I was 15,a nurse from our medical mission trip held my hand and two Ecuadorian guys led us deep into Rio Bamba to a pulsing bar to teach us salsa. Every once in a while one of my middle eastern belly dance jiggles comes out on the kitchen floor before dinner and my husband, Andrew, raises his eyebrows and grins wryly. Straight faced, I honestly say, “honey, I’m working on my abs.”
They remind me of that bachelorette party last summer here and Maya Angelou’s story of women overcoming female competition and learning to celebrate the womanhood of each in the driving drumbeat one hot evening in Egypt.
I love these women, courageous and unassuming, unique and beautiful… and never taking themselves too seriously. One wears crazy tights and another a sequin dress and we are allowed to bring our full person-hood out on this dance floor where we are never judged, black biking shorts and all. I love their bold moves and the laughter between songs and imagine that Jesus adores watching their peppery personalities come out in a celebration of joy, Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings at 9am.