When I was ten, my mother enrolled me in Sharon Miller’s Performing Arts Camp. She prayed that somehow, magically, I would suddenly develop a dancing groove, and perhaps become the next Ginger Rogers. Only with brown hair and in long skirts. Or, at the very least, I would remain physically active seven hours a day, five days a week– and given my attraction to cheese danishes, this was a necessary component to maintaining optimal physical health.
Now, though I was young and rather naive in regards to my own talents, I knew that I never going to be Gene Kelly‘s leading lady in a remake of some 1950s musical. Simply stated, I was a klutz, with a capital K. While my fellow female campers glided across stage, like future prima ballerinas, I tried desperately to count beats in my head, and paradoxically then missed my cues to leap, turn, and tap.
After three weeks of rhythmic failure, I approached Sharon Miller herself and told her I was not cut out for “this thing.” She looked perplexed– “What thing are you referring to, my dear?” I proceeded to tell her the story of my birth, which while seemingly irrelevant, had one important point– I was born with child-bearing hips. In other words, I was a chubby premature baby. I was doomed from the start; incapable of ever making a living off my body.
Miller: “So what you’re saying is you don’t want to be a professional dancer, and hence this entire experience is worthless? Yaffa, you’re ten, and you’re worried about your career plans?”
I responded that I was not worried. I knew exactly what I wanted to be– a senator, resembling Barbara Mikulski, the endearing pudgy senator from Maryland. She was female, a Democrat, and had a little extra junk in her trunk– three traits I fully identified with.
Well, after Ms. Miller stared blankly at me for a few moments, she regained a level of composure and said, “I think I know just the right type of dance for this budding politician.”
The next thing I knew, I was enrolled in a Latin dance class, salsaing, bachataing, and merenguing like my life depended on it. And shockingly, I wasn’t an embarrassment to watch. Latin dance is designed for women with curves, and I soon realized I had found my rhythmic niche.
Fast forward eleven years, and I am a Zumba aficionado, participating in a Zumba competition to raise money for diabetes research. The basic premise: Zumba till your caffeine levels reach alarmingly low levels. Every minute spent on the dance floor is another dollar towards making diabetes a thing of the past.
For those unfamiliar with Zumba, or who have never attended one of my infamous Wellelsey “Jewmba” classes (designed specifically for a group of women genetically predetermined to fail at dancing), let me explain. Zumba is Latin-style aerobics, performed alongside contemporary hip hop and pop music. Imagining doing cumbia or the cha-cha-cha to Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie,” and you have a particularly good sense of the sort of activity involved in this cardio routine.
Hence, when I was presented with the opportunity to put my hips to good use, I gladly volunteered them– participating in the largest Zumba class even to be held at my local women’s only gym. We raised hundreds of dollars to help a fellow Zumba instructor, whose brother had recently passed from juvenile diabetes. And, as with the completion of most good deeds, all of us participants left with a feeling that we had done our part to make a difference in a war against a deadly disease.
It also inspired me. As a team leader in the Boston Leukemia and Lymphoma Society ‘s Light Up the Night Walk in October, I had been searching for fundraising ideas that did not cost too much to initiate. I now think a Jewmba dance off may be in the works, with 100% of the proceeds going towards the walk. For those of you who are male, or female– and for some strange reason have opted out of single sex education, you can still be of service to me, donating to my team here. And while I don’t make a habit out of citing Hasidic charity boxes, I will close with this, “Every little bit makes a difference.” So please consider giving to this very worthwhile and necessary cause.