Zumba Sisterhood written by Joanne Wong

Every once in a while, you have that extra special something that you look forward to in life. Hard days don’t matter. You forget about all the petty stuff around you and just charge on counting the days till your happy moment comes.

It was exactly like that for me when I first found out that Loretta Bates was going to be in Abu Dhabi. As a young Zumba Crew back in 2015, I followed her pages on Instagram and Facebook to learn choreographies and read her inspiring messages every day. I could not believe she would be coming here.

As the days came closer, I was wondering if I would get a chance to attend her masterclass event and wanted to know how to get tickets. I told Nada it’s my dream and I would give anything to go and to my biggest surprise, Nada made my day, no not just day … she made my year….. When she handed me the ticket and said – “Yallah Jo, you’re coming with me!” I was overjoyed. This is real. I am going!

At class that evening, with the ticket in my purse, my moves were sexier, my jumps were higher, and my screams were louder, still in disbelief as started my count down. Nothing was going to keep away from Loretta’s Masterclass.

I followed Loretta closely on social media as she made her way to the Middle East, Lebanon, and Turkey and … here she comes, Abu Dhabi.

Going nuts that the weekend was so close and I had nothing to wear. Fretting and panicking. Yeah, nothing to wear at all. Although I have 2 large basket full of Zumba wear, I had nothing to wear. I was careful, looked after my health and made sure that nothing would go wrong on that the beautiful Saturday. Woke up early that day, had an amazing breakfast, stayed home, didn’t accept any lunch dates with anyone and kept watching the clock. I got ready as early as I could and waited for the perfect time to leave the apartment. Yes, that being said about having nothing to wear, I finally found something to wear. An old Hip Hop Honey Pink top and a black Zumba legging. Nothing to shout about, pretty simple but comfortable. Hoping it was enough.

Arriving at the Westin Spa and Resort in my old Zumba wear, feeling like most beautiful woman on earth, to be greeted with racks and racks of new Zumba wear, made me cringe. I looked for my purse and I was in Zumba heaven. I picked out a few tops and went over every single item on display. To be honest, I wanted to get one of each on the display but had to remind myself that there were other commitments for the month and practiced deep breathing as I took only one piece to buy as a keepsake for the event. In my excitement, I forgot to inform Nada that I have arrived. Nada caught me in action and we greeted each other the usual way we do every time we see each other, not caring who is watching us, we kiss, we scream, we shout and jump for happiness, it makes sense to us as we have that z- connection although you make think it’s absurd if you knew we were together the day before, it just made sense to hug every time we met. This ladies, is what I call the amazing sisterhood in Zumba. You don’t have to be of the same ethnicity, same nationality or age, but you just connect through Zumba.

Time just froze for me that evening and as we waited for the masterclass to start, heart racing – palms sweaty, we took photos and took in as much as we could of our surroundings. My first masterclass with a Zumba Public Figure, no idea what to expect. Could I follow her dance steps, will I be able to see her? Will she see me? What if I can’t find a spot to dance?

Sharp 5, Loretta appears on stage, glowing and as beautiful as ever. The energy in the crowd – was a hundred Zumba classes put together!!

She made it a point to remind everyone in the room to not judge each other and have fun. I was feeling on top of the world when her playlist started and was in awe that her steps were so easy to follow. She is real, down to earth and full of energy. The crowd went wild with moves and we had so much fun. Imagine sweating just as I would at a normal Zumba session and here we were more than 300 people dancing and I am able to break such a sweat. Amazing. We danced for an hour and half and she ended the class with an apt song “This is me”. A song with a powerful message. Loretta is an inspiration and I will always remember what she said and the message will stay with me forever.

Thank you Nada for this amazing experience. One word – awesome. Time just went by with each song and the ZINs made the event even more fun when they joined Loretta on the stage. Zumba is all about fun. Loretta was right, no one is better than the other. We are all different and we all have our own talents and that makes us unique.

I remembered the day I fell in love with Zumba. My first attempt was frightening, I was not able to coordinate my hands and feet and could not tell the difference between right and left. The experts were giving me the looks … I bumped into the ladies and may have annoyed one or two of the gym members. I was ashamed but kept at it, from the back of the class I have I worked my way to the stage, who would believe that!

One day a few weeks later, I decided that I would laugh at myself when this happened. Although no one was laughing at me, I laughed when I went to wrong way or bumped into someone. Soon I had people laughing with me. I started to make friends. I started to request for songs that I loved. Zumba is about smiles, it’s about fun. Zumba does not judge. It was not so bad and before time, my body started to remember the moves and coordination happened!

I watched YouTube videos, danced in the shower (don’t judge) and anywhere I could to practise and soon there I was with Nada on the stage. I was also doing Zumba in my head all day (now you know why I have been smiling without a reason in my office). Only those who Zumba will know what I mean.

I started remembering the song titles and worked hard to remember the choreography. If you asked me what my talent is, I’d say screaming and shouting and adding to noise in the class. I love motivating the ladies to keep on moving until the song ends.

I made good friends at class and shared many happy moments and smiles with these ladies. We became Zumba sisters, no one was better than the other. We are all special in our own way. This is for you Moon, Rouba, Maisoon, Maysoon, Mona, Sara, Noor, Marwa, Tahrah, Nass, Ghanya … ❤ just naming a few as my list can on for pages! Christine Wong – my one and only sister who shares my love for Zumba, it is a joy to share this passion with you ❤

As women in the world today, there are days when you just want to stay in your pajamas and not do anything or just get lost and go away for 3 months or more falling off the face of the earth. Just to get away from the drama that keeps hitting you from all corners of the world. Drama that sometimes you have no idea why it came your way. You pick up mess and try to sort it out. You get ignored by family members for no reason, you get people keeping away from you for no reason and you wonder why? You feel alone and you cannot understand the people around you.

Well, just so you know, it’s not you, it is them. Don’t get disheartened. My suggestion is, we find our happy place, be it McDonald’s or the gym and we let ourselves get lost there, we let the world take care of itself.

For me to get away from it all, is that one special hour every other day at the gym dancing my stress away with my sisters. Life always seems better after Zumba. Sadness goes away and we are stronger and we are able to pick ourselves up to face another day. We are no different from each other when it comes to experiencing life, we fall, we get up, we laugh and we cry, that’s just being human. But how we treat each other makes a difference, don’t give grief to one another, be there for each other, always remember, you may think you don’t matter to anyone but out there in the world– you always matter to someone.  Much Love! Joanne Wong

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