Every day when I recall other times in my life, I say. “That was then; this is now” and the now wants to be the then more often than not. I am happy to report I ran right smack into the then Saturday when I showed up for Maria Nhambu’s Aerobics With Soul class.
Years ago, I went to this very class with some good friends on Thursday nights at the Milagro Center. There was African music playing and we did lion dances, made monkey sounds, flew like birds and had the time of our lives. The hour-long class starts with stretching, followed by low-impact aerobics in a group circle. We are separate here but we dance as a group, the way people might in an African village during a celebration of this or that. At least that’s the way I like to see it. This is followed by a period of free dancing and a cool-down and it is fun. Fun. For one hour you are released from the to-do list and the grocery store and the work worries and the kid’s soccer practices and everything else that constitutes the adult western world. Replaced here by soothing African rhythms, drums, the occasional bird call.
Of course it helps that the same women went back with me to this new class, and that Maria Nhambu (pictured above) still leads the class. Maria is beautiful and charismatic and has a life that started at an orphanage for mixed-race children in Tanzania. (Two out of three books in her memoir trilogy—Africa’s Child and America’s Daughter have been published; the third, Drum Beats, Heart Beats will be published this year.) The connecting thread between the books and Maria’s own journey has been dance, and you can feel it in her classes.
Coming back to Aerobics with Soul is a little like living what Faulkner said, when he pronounced “The past is not dead. In fact, it’s not even past.” So here we are again and rediscovering this class so many years later is nothing short of joyful—like a long overdue reunion. There is already a new promise to 2018 and I found it this Saturday.
Aerobics With Soul is every Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Veterans Park facility at Veterans Park in Delray Beach. It begins at 10 a.m. and is $10.