In my 20s, I used to get my fix of Greek blues at The Retreat in Brunswick; jazz at the Night Cat in Fitzroy, African drum beats in the town of Tocumwal. To all these beats I danced, sometimes on tables, sometimes on dirt, sometimes simply on a dance floor. I would lose myself in my body, in the thriving mass around me, in the pulsing rhythms emanating from the toumbeleki or the saxophone. No matter where I was, there was a heady sense of being home in my own body.
Now, in my more sedate 40s, I can’t remember the last time I went out dancing at night. The idea of doing it on a table makes me tremble with embarrassment. It’s hard to stay up after 10pm, and all it takes are two glasses of wine to take me over the edge. But still, the love of music and dance remains. Where to get my fix now?
I think I've found the answer in a fluoro-lit room in middle suburbia. Here the trademarked rhythms of a Zumba class transport me from Africa to South America to India in a pumping sixty minutes of jiggling joy. And all this at 9am for the cost of breakfast. No need to organise the babysitter, no need to cram my feet into a pair of heels.
The gym's wall-to-wall mirrors indicate that my body has changed – a black tracksuit and old t-shirt do nothing to flatter a bottom that is showing the effects of a few too many sausage rolls and homemade pasta dinners – but the feeling is the same. I am once again 24, learning how to belly dance in the back room of a pub in Gertrude Street Fitzroy, or squashed on a little dance floor dancing to Rembetika in Brunswick at 26, or following the drum beats with my husband-to-be at Comfest at 28. I still feel a childish freedom in being silly, of hamming it up, and an adult sense of connection with my body, with my own sensuality. I am in the class with some 20 women, and we are all sweating and shimmying and sashaying to the same rhythm. According to the Zumba PR machine, I am one of '12 million people of all shapes, sizes and ages taking weekly Zumba classes in over 110,000 locations across more than 125 countries'. Whilst this makes me feel that I have been sucked in by a well-oiled marketing machine, perhaps the founders have also hit on something more universal -- a need to be moved by music, and our need to dance.
I turn my attention away from the mirrors and my cerebralism, back to the instructor. She is now rousing us up into the Zorba dance, Zumba-style. And for just a few moments, I leave the fluoro-lit room, I leave my head and I am back in my body -- home where I belong.