In group fitness, the teacher is everything. That is a constant I've seen in every group class I've been in. The teacher's expertise and energy is crucial in setting the tone and vibe for the students. What really keeps the students, though, is who that teacher is as a person. Never has that been more apparent than in the last week, as my best friend Paula wrapped up a few years of teaching Zumba in the south end, downtown and east side to move to the Methow Valley with her love.
To understand her students' tears and sadness is to truly understand the kind of person Paula is. In the 22 years we've known each other, I still introduce her to people as "the kindest person I've ever met" to this day. She has always been a natural athlete and dancer, and this has served her well in setting her apart from other Zumba instructors. You danced AND you sweat hard in her classes, to Major Lazer, hella Pitbull, that merengue Soulja Boy cut, some J.Lo, Gyptian, Prince Royce and even Vampire Weekend. Even the most swaggerless could feel like a dancing queen (or king) for an hour thanks to Paula.
The first time I took Paula's famously popular Sunday morning class, her students applauded when she walked in - for no special reason other than that they were so excited to see her and get to steppin'! That was the first time I got to witness firsthand the impact Paula would leave on every student she had. I would soon learn that she is just as natural a teacher as she is a dancer. From her classes, I learned a lot about my own rhythm, in controlling my movements and the importance of lateral movement in a well-rounded fitness regimen. I learned how powerful all of that can be in one's self-confidence. Say and hold the perceptions you want about Zumba...Paula brought the sexy, the swag and the fun. You couldn't take a class from her and not feel the same about yourself! I am confident that's how many of her students felt.
While I'm excited for the next chapter in my best friend's life, this past week has been such a beautiful and emotional end to this current one. Seeing all the heartfelt hugs, tears, gifts and goodbyes have been so touching. I am so fortunate to call this beautiful soul my best friend (good lookin' out Jesus), and it's so freakin cool that so many others are just as honored to have her leave an impact in their lives too.
I'm lowkey sad I won't be dancing to this song anytime soon...outside of my home anyway...