What Can Zumba Teach Us about Complex Adaptive Systems and/or Group Dynamics?

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bb cherations 10-13 waste up 2nd cityI love my Zumba class and instructors.  Somehow I doubt they are fantasizing about group dynamics and having epiphanies about related complex adaptive systems while dancing like I tend too, but that’s ok! Zumba® exercise classes are ” fitness-parties ” that blend upbeat world rhythms with easy-to-follow choreography, for a total-body workout that feels like a celebration.  I typically go to a class 3-5 times a week at Jubilation Studio in Portsmouth, NH where the popular Interruption Awareness youtube was filmed!  Here’s a quick glimpse video!  (I’m secretly jealous I couldn’t participate in this video because of a work-related ligament injury-patient falling and me trying to minimize his injury- but very grateful to my physical therapist, Pamela Neff Montembeau, DPT of Health Matters PT,  for helping me get back on the dance floor! I will be forever grateful)

What Is So Fascinating and What Can Zumba Teach Us about Complex Adaptive Systems?

  • Many people with varied ages, abilities, heights, weights, and skill come together and for an hour are together dancing. We’re connected through the music and rhythm and a commitment to follow the leader. We dance together in a very cooperative and joyful way that transcends politics, religion, money, and all the other variable mentioned.  Some of us know each other and many don’t.  Some have lots of experience and some have little.  Some have a great sense of rhythm while it seems mysterious to others.  Some jump high while others don’t jump at all.  But still we are all dancing the dance and dancing the dance together.
  • Like complex adaptive systems, there is a simple vision and a few simple rules.  The vision is the dance itself with choreography by the instructor and the rules are basically to know a few simple steps and to go in the same direction as everyone else!  Like a flock of birds heading south in a fluid motion responding to the environment and each other.  We are individuals and we are a group!
  • I generally stand in the back with dancers who may be newer to Zumba, or older in age, or more limited in physical capacity.  It is fascinating to watch how a new move is translated from the instructor and quickly picked up by those who are familiar with the moves, and how it quickly catches on throughout the group while individuals modify to their own preferences and abilities.  Again, like complex adaptive systems there is leadership and followership going on all the time.  (When we are all facing the back just for a few beats, the back takes on a leadership role.  This is fun and challenging for the back section, but we do our best and take it in stride!)

17439_239160682808_339870_n Do you dance or do something like Zumba?  Do you have related thoughts?  If you are ever in the Portsmouth, NH areaand want to Zumba, check out Jubilation Studio and join us for some fun fabulous dancing and maybe some exciting philosophical insights!

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6 Responses to What Can Zumba Teach Us about Complex Adaptive Systems and/or Group Dynamics?

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  3. Hi Beth, I am a caregiver, author and workshop leader for family caregivers. I am also a zumba-holic! I feel as you do, that zumba offers a healing and joyful experience that is simple and yet sometimes quite profound. The music and dance movements that everyone follows, as you said, like a flock of birds, connect us in a way that transcends the worries of our everyday lives. It is an uplifting, communal experience. I can’t do a class without smiling the whole way through! It’s lovely to know another zumba lover who sees the deeper health benefits for mind, body and soul. Thank you for sharing.

    • Thanks so much, Donna. I’m sorry about your sister’s passing and can relate to dancing in a grieving yet joyful way. I’m glad you had your dancing class to be part of your process. I remember when my father passed, around the time, dancing and having this moment of profound awareness of love and acceptance and understanding that was coming from him. A very spiritual moment and I felt I was sharing with my dancing friends but not on a conscious level. Another time I remember a friend who’s daughter was in class and I was worried about my mother. Somehow, their bond was a powerful reminder of mine…again, not consciously. Anyways, thanks again and take care. If you ever want to share more about your work in a guest blog post please let me know. All the very best,

    • Trish Roche says:

      Hi Beth (and Donna) — wonderful article! You’re right — I have never looked at Zumba through your lens but from my vantage point (I am Donna’s Zumba instructor), I can absolutely see what you’re talking about. My wish is that those who are hesitant to join would watch the class and its many individuals. We each move to our own music in a way — nuances, strength, grace, power, passion, concentration, and training — all play a part in how it all comes together. Two people side-by-side may appear to be doing quite different steps and yet we are all having an experience together. It is indeed joyful and fulfilling. I danced with deep passion the day after my sister died of leukaemia — a celebration of her life, and of life in general. Zumba heals me by giving me joy each day, and teaching it fills me up by sharing the joy with others.
      Sign me — Zumba Girl, and loving it.

      • Hi Trish,
        Thanks so much for your comment. The relationships among instructors and students is often so special. That is such a wonderful testimony about your sister and celebrating her life and life in general! I love that! We can process joy and sorrow for ourselves and each other on the dance floor. Sometimes we do dances where our instructor splits us up into two ‘competing’ groups…there’s probably a name for this, but I don’t know it. Anyways, we compete by dancing and in good spirit and fun…I think countries should do this as part of conflict management. If you dance together at least there is a better chance for listening to each other with respect….Anyways, keep dancing and all the very best to you and your class!

What are your thoughts?