The first time I ever took a Zumba class, it was at a fitness conference called Midwest Mania. I loved it so much that I came home and immediately looked up a local instructor on their website so I could try a class close to home.

I took the class, and was officially hooked. I have always loved to dance. I still do: I have a dance floor radar and if I sense one is nearby, I make a beeline for it. I am *that* woman who is out there for any group dance at a wedding or Bar Mitzvah reception. I am a quintuple threat (1. Cha Cha Slide, 2. Electric Slide, 3. Cupid Shuffle, 4. The Macarena, and yes, I’m afraid even 5. The Chicken Dance). Zumba is the perfect cardio workout for me, because it’s just like being at one of those receptions.

The instructor of that local class, Emily, eventually became my friend and I have followed her–not in a stalking way, mind you–each time she’s changed locations. She has taught Zumba at a dance studio, at the YMCA, and now at a big-chain health club.

Because I’ve taken her classes so many times, I know the music and the choreography really, really well. So well, in fact, that there’s an extra layer of fun during class: the goof-off factor. Every now and then Emily will forget a piece of choreography, and she’ll make eye contact with me. In that moment, one of two things will happen:

1. I will realize that she will be watching MY next step so she can stay on track and I come through like a champ, helping her to seamlessly teach the routine

OR, less frequently but truly more hysterical:

2. I will realize that she will be watching MY next step so she can stay on track and I realize in that split second that my mind is just as blank as hers, and we slam to a stop, bringing about forty other people with us.

Because I am her “old-timer”, she can introduce old songs that she used at the other two places, and I can help her teach (by example, just doing the choreography that I learned ages ago) the song to our current group because it’s totally new to them.

And always, we laugh. In fact, sometimes I have to avoid looking at her at all costs because if our eyes meet I lose myself in laughter. Some songs are more challenging in this way than others, whether it’s because we’re trying to goad each other into singing along, because certain moves are just plain silly, or because Emily strikes silly poses when each song is over. This is why I move heaven and earth to get to her classes.

I like to think of myself as her faithful sidekick, the one who appreciates all of her efforts, laughs at her jokes, and enjoys just being around her. I’m the Ed McMahon to her Johnny Carson. I’m the Andy Richter to her Conan O’Brien. I’m the Patrick to her SpongeBob. (Emily doesn’t own a television so I’m hoping that at least one of those will make sense to her via pop culture osmosis.)

Emily is celebrating her three year anniversary of Zumba-teaching this month. I have been with her for two years and four months of it, and am so appreciative of every single minute of class as well as her friendship and her contagious smile. She is one of my very favorite people, and I’m blessed to have her in my life.

Happy anniversary, Emily. I hope we are still doing Zumba together in twenty years! (Zumba Gold, I guess.) xoxo