Grooving into a Different Culture


What African Zumba means for AHM

“Uniting people who would typically assume they have no common ground with different groups through dance.” These are the words of Sasha Paul, a native of Zimbabwe and the current Equity Representative on the Students’ Union Council. In an interview with the Xaverian she stated that through teaching African Zumba classes, she hopes to build bridges between different cultures.

Dance in and of itself is an often forgotten medium of cultural expression; instead we tend to turn to cuisine, music and language to convey a message, but dance has proven to be just as powerful. Participating in African dance allows one to get in touch with your culture, or a brand new one previously unknown to you.

Paul states that she likes to see Canadian students come out of their comfort zone and dance in a way that is new to them. By doing so, it allows them to experience a new culture and a new artistry that aids in cultural understanding; this has been one of her main goal since the debut of her Zumba career a few years ago. Cultural understanding is important in the sense that a community can not be built without it. Having an idea of how our colleagues at StFX who may have different backgrounds than us have lived and what they have experienced in terms of music and dance can be eye-opening to say the least. Music and dance that is foreign to us tells us a completely new story; it sheds insight into a rich culture and one that spans many countries.

Zumba is culturally significant in the sense that the moves themselves are inspired by African culture. Paul elaborated that it isn’t a simple “step to left, step to the right,” type of dance; the moves within African Zumba are a way for your body to communicate a message.

Oftentimes, the message that one may communicating could be religious, celebratory, or sorrowful, depending upon the situation.

When asked how Paul first got into Zumba, she responded that she was “thrown into it” as the students of African Descent Coordinator at the time was looking for programming ideas and she volunteered to take the helm. This isn’t to say that the classes are lackluster as evidenced by high participation rates and positive feedback.

The Combative Room in Oland Centre was full of eager participants moving energetically to traditional African music during the last Zumba session of the month.

Sasha Paul truly got her participants moving and grooving as exhibited by the fast-paced, sweat inducing choreography.

Every year during African Heritage Month, Zumba classes have been and will continue to be taught in order to promote understanding and awareness of African cultures. This form of expression is integral to promoting African culture as a whole, and has been a step forward in diversifying the programming within our community.