Brazilian Beats

Carnival kicks off in Rio today and Jane has the low-down on what is arguably the greatest show on earth.

But if a break in Brazil isn’t on the cards this month, you can still get into the carnival spirit by giving zumba – the Latin rhythm driven dance craze beloved by Victoria Beckham and Michelle Obama and a whole host of other celebs – a go.

The brainchild of Beto Perez (legend has it that one day the Colombian fitness trainer forgot his music for a dance class he was taking and improvised from the random tapes in his bag), Zumba borrows moves, and music, from dance styles such as salsa, flamenco, belly dancing and hip hop – with a few squats and lunges thrown in.

I donned my Lycra and joined the Zumba party in a sweaty studio in north west London – and to my surprise found the hour long class is to be bucket loads of fun. Happily there’s no right or wrong way to Zumba (great news for those of us who have spent years getting the steps wrong in aerobic classes). You just need to keep shaking, shimmying and sashaying with abandon to the insanely uplifting music. It’s rather liberating – and really, really fun. I felt like I was out clubbing rather than at an intense (Zumba can burn up too 500 calories) exercise class. I finished my Zumba debut dripping in sweat, but smiling.

I maybe the last person in the Western hemisphere to stop slogging it out in a spinning class and switch to Zumba but I won’t be the last to say: “Wow, that was wonderful.” I might not make it to carnival in 2012, but mark my words: I’ll travel back for more Brazilian beats in W12 …

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