When Elephants Samba


Fun fact about Brazilians: They don’t have bones.

This characteristic has made it a challenge for me, an individual burdened with a skeleton, to keep up with a certain Brazilian dance workout DVD. Samba marries intricate footwork with mind-blowing hip action, as it was developed by women walking barefoot across concrete roads scorched by the Brazilian sun– their feet burned, so they moved quickly while still trying to look sexy enough to attract eligible neighbors.

That’s my guess, anyway.

The woman on my screen (whose abs I can see through her spandex) moves like Gumby and, as I struggle to follow her, I move more like a first grader dressed up as Gumby for Halloween.  She zigs. I zag. She swirls. I seize. She bounces like a jello square. I bounce like I have to pee.

But, I do sweat, so I guess that makes it a successful workout.

Unless, of course, the workout is interrupted by a doorbell.

I pause the DVD, wipe my dripping, flushed face with the inside of my t shirt neck, and open my apartment door. At the bottom of the staircase (we live on the second floor) stands my landlord, a middle aged paunchy man who patches his retirement together with the rental, guitar lessons, and a business called Rock and Roll Amps, which on outgoing packages reads Rockandrollamps. At first I read this as Rock and Roll Lamps, and was intrigued by the idea that he is an eccentric artist who fashions light fixtures with over-sized Mick Jagger bobble heads.

“I just wanted to make sure everything was okay up there,” he says. “It sounds like an elephant stampede.”

It sounds like an elephant stampede.

Elephants. Just the animal that an exercising woman wants to be compared to. And I don’t just sound like one mammal renowned for its sheer size. I sound like herd of them, fleeing in distress.

I already felt inadequate compared to the DVD’s agile dance master, a woman who would probably be assigned to some graceful animal like a gazelle instead of my animal look alike. An ELEPHANT. It was bad enough that I fumbled the moves and that my hip cracked with every rotation, serving as an additional reminder of the qualities I shared with The Tin Man. I was already down on myself because when the super-sambista told me to loosen up my upper body by getting my shoulders and elbows into the move, I punched myself in the face. I literally punched myself. In the face. Not hard. I didn’t give myself a bloody nose or anything. But you don’t have to punch yourself in the face with much power for it to be humiliating. And now this guy, who would benefit from a squat or two himself, has to inform me that what I hoped were limber hops were actually mini earthquakes caused by feet that might have 12,000 pounds of weight behind them. I imagine my landlord was downstairs at his kitchen table polishing a bronze bust of Eric Clapton when his chandelier began to rattle, the ceiling plaster fell in dust, and he suddenly felt as if he was a character in Jumanji.

Well, if I am an elephant, Mr. Landlord, their infrasound hearing capability would explain why the electric guitar playing that we “would never hear” is actually our nightly lullaby.

Okay, I’ll have to work on a zingier comeback.

On the bright side, samba and elephants both have roots in Africa. So at least my performance shares the same continent as the dance I’m unsuccessfully trying to imitate.


6 thoughts on “When Elephants Samba

  1. Don’t feel too bad. In 3rd grade they tried to make me play an elephant in the school play because I was the fattest kid. The teachers were behind it.

    Never put too much stock into what the women or men look like in these workout DVDs. They’re not human. Their vocabulary does not go beyond what they say in the video. I tell myself this at least to feel better about myself.

  2. This nearly made me did with laughter. Not laughter at YOU, but laughter at this horribly embarrassing situation which we share. I work in northern Alberta and while I’m there I live on a camp. On day I was doing an exercise vid in my room there when a knock came on my door. It was my neighbor and she wanted to know if I was okay be because I’d been making horrible noises that sounded like I was having a heart attack or a stroke. Why thank you, dear neighbor. It’s nice to know that I’m so out of shape that my exercising leads people to fear for my life. 😛

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