“Did you not see how all the Zumba instructors are posting funny Zumbawear videos?” Zaina Alghabra says between sips of her turmeric latte, bonding with fellow Zumba instructor and friend Tamara.
Only moments ago we were in Zaina’s Zumba class at the Palms, where the energy was high and alive with positivity, movement, unity and community. Sporting traditional “zumbawear” in the form of tanks with neon “Zumba” emblems splashed across, the ladies exude a sense of fun and happiness. If this is what Zumba does for a person, sign me up.
Though she discovered Zumba completely by accident about four years prior to her becoming certified, it was a discovery that would soon after change her life. “I was never into working out. When I was studying abroad in Oklahoma, I was a Kuwait girl – I loved to eat and loved being lazy like anyone else,” she laughs. “One day, I went to the gym with a friend of mine and was mesmerized by the sound of Sean Paul playing loudly in a nearby studio and saw people dancing, and thought ‘let’s go there!’”
It took Zaina nearly four years to make her way from student to certified instructor while living in the States, subbing classes taught by her instructors at first, and then eventually landing a full-time instructing gig at Gold’s Gym in Edmond and Northwest OKC. It was this experience that gave her lessons as to why she was doing what she was doing.
“In my class, there was this man who was truly dancing to his own rhythm and beat in a way that didn’t really go along with the rest of the class, but nonetheless, he was trying really hard. After class, and after telling him he did a great job without receiving any response, he took out his phone and wrote ‘it was an amazing class – thank you so much.’ He was deaf, and didn’t let it stop him from enjoying himself and making the most out of his workout despite not being able to hear the music. THIS is why I do this.”
This ethos is what Zaina, as an instructor, carried on with her in each class she’s ever taught to this day. A belief that Zumba is for everyone, and that everybody can practice, and enjoy themselves.
“There are no restrictions, and after a few times, people always end up catching up and getting the hang of it.”
Furthermore, it solidifies that Zumba is about empowerment, and in a country where Zumba as a workout attracts more women than it does men, there’s room for Zaina to spread female centric confidence and strength to the ladies who attend her classes.
“I especially love that younger ladies, like teenagers and adolescents are among the regulars in my classes,” she confidently states. “It boosts their confidence from an early age, and instills a bond with other women that uplifts rather than brings down.”
Zumba classes are fun and hard work, but the beautiful thing about them is the sense of community they create. Women of different ages, sizes and abilities becoming regulars who frequent her classes three times a week, go on to become instructors, form friendships and comradery, and who discover their love of dance – all the while the effervescent little Zaina guides them with pep, encouragement and pizzazz.
TRUTH OR DARE QUESTIONNAIRE
How would your mother describe you in one word?
How would you describe your mother in one word?
What is the most ridiculous question you’ve ever been asked?
Being asked if I rode a camel to school.
What word in the English or Arabic language do you wish you had invented?
Where would you like to live? What is your dream retirement location?
LA or Spain. As long as it’s active and has a beach nearby. Retirement has to be on an island! Costa Rica, maybe?
What is the first famous quote that comes to your mind?
“Don’t worry, be happy.”
What animal best describes the kind of partner you’d be interested in?
Values of an elephant and the cuteness of a dog!
What do you miss about your childhood?
Summer camps in the US.
If you could change your name, what would you change it to?
How would you describe your handshake in one word?
What is the toughest part of your character?
I think my friendliness, because it can often be misunderstood
Who is your favorite historical figure?
What in the world do you least desire?
What do you think is lacking in the world, which if there was more of would make the world a better place?
It sounds cliché but love, tolerance, honesty and acceptance.
Why do you think most girls/guys like you?
We should ask them!
Finish this sentence: “Happiness is a thing called…”
Zaina Alghabra teaches Zumba and Strong by Zumba regularly at The Palms Beach Hotel and Spa. Follow her on Instagram @zainaghabra for more information.