With the 2016 Color Vibe 5K Run at Eisenhower Park over, I’ve had a few moments to sit down and think about the day. In over six years of teaching Zumba classes, I’ve been fortunate enough to not only have my regular steady classes but also participate in various fundraisers and special events. Doing any kind of Zumba event always brings a certain added level of excitement, nervousness and sometimes fear of wondering if anyone will even show up.
A Run Where Color Doesn’t Matter
About a month and a half ago, I was contacted by the organizers of the Color Vibe 5K Run to ask if I wanted to do the pre-race warm up at Eisenhower Park. As a kid growing up on Long Island, Eisenhower Park played a big role in my childhood. Between Safety Town, the hockey rinks, the family BBQs and softball games, Eisenhower Park is synonymous with fun.
I was thrilled and excited at the opportunity to be able to bring my brand and flavor of dance to the park and race participants. The Color Vibe 5K is a run where participants get dressed up in wild costumes and run or walk a 5K race. During this race, they pass through various color checkpoints where they are sprayed with various color packets.
Dance With People You Love
For the event, I was allowed to bring some people up on stage with me. Thinking about it, there was no one I could have wanted more than my original Zumba brother and sisters Luis, Jessica & Donna. I met Luis and Donna back in early 2010 when they were doing an event in Staten Island for the victims of the Haiti earthquakes. That event was my first real exposure to any kind of Zumba event. The energy, excitement, and fun that these 2 exude when dancing are beyond compare. Since then we have together co-taught dozens of special events and master classes.
Some of my favorite events have been our Super Bowl Sunday and Thanksgiving classes. My most favorite wasn’t on a large stage with hundreds of people, but with a small group of about 20 adults with Down Syndrome. During my regular weekly classes, it’s a running joke that I really don’t smile that much, but it is impossible to dance along side Luis and Donna and not smile. Having known Jessica for a few years now, I knew her positive, outgoing spirit would be a great addition that morning.
“The most fun you will ever have is to be at a place where color isn’t an issue.”
Arriving At The Park
We had to be at Eisenhower Park at 7am on a Saturday morning, which is even earlier than I usually wake up for my Saturday morning class in the Bronx. To show unity, we decided to wear our One Dance | One World T-Shirts to represent our love and passion of dance featuring flags from the various regions that have inspired these dance rhythms. Arriving early to meet up in the parking lot and there were a handful of race participants already on line to register. We walked over theto the main stage are and began to set up. We were allocated 25 minutes of a warmup and thanks to my friend DJ Ahmed Selim, we had a great mix of music to dance to.
Fill The World With Color
To get the participants ready for the warm up, the DJ announced the first color throw. The color throw is where race participants get their first exposure to unopened color packets. Luis, Jessica, Donna and myself got to throw the color packets out into the crowd. People were jumping up with outstretched hands trying to get one of the packets thrown. Early on, you could tell this was going to be a very exciting morning and event.
As the race participants rushed the stage, it seemed like the crowd grew from a few hundred to several thousand in a matter of minutes. Standing at the front of the stage looking out into the sea of smiling faces was unlike anything I have ever experienced. All of these eyes looking towards me, I could only start to laugh as I watched Luis overhand throw out color packets like his favorite baseball player Roberto Clemente.
The stage was a little slippery because the event organizers placed buckets of colored water at the front. With this in mind, safety was of the utmost importance. Knowing the participants would be dancing on the grass, still damp from the morning I wanted to keep the warm up as simple as possible. I didn’t want to do anything that would leave people’s ankles or knees twisted.
Share Your Passion, Share Your Stage
When you surround yourself with professionals that you trust, without a doubt, it makes it that much more fun to be able to let loose and just have fun. As I saw a sea of faces moving right to left I scanned quickly to try and find people who were smiling bright or displaying a tremendous amount of energy. There was one young man who I spotted who was just smiling the whole time. He was draped in a bright orange cape, so I had to pull him up on stage with us.
For me, I have always made it a point to share the spotlight with people. When teaching classes, the most important thing I take into every class with me is the knowledge that it is not about me, but the people who show up. Even if just for 90 seconds during a routine, bringing someone upfront next to me, you can see the anxiety, excitement, and fear. At an event of this size, it was great to see and hear all of the people yelling, clapping and cheering while this young man danced alongside us. When that song was over, I pulled up a young teenage girl and she absolutely crushed it. For about 2 minutes, she was the center of attention and her mom looked on smiling as she danced.
Often when I am teaching a class, I am not even focused on the movements because they have become instinctual and second nature to me. When you know your music and you feel a song, you can jump in at any point and fall back into the routine. So we finished out our warm up set and started to hype up the crowd. I had a few extra One Dance | One World T-Shirts with me so I threw them out into the crowd. I joked that I felt like one of the ice girls at a hockey game who gets to launch t-shirts into the crowd. A stack of beads rest on a table behind us and Luis and Jessica began to throw them out.
Color Packet Craziness
With every race, there is a pre-race ritual where the participants all open up the color packets at the same time. Throwing the color packets into the air, everyone gets filled with color. As the DJ counted up… One, Two, Three! I stood there in amazement watching as people threw colors into the air. Blue, Red, Yellow, Green, Purple, and Pink all filled the air quickly. It was truly unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed, and I have been to two Super Bowls. As the music pumped, crowds of people jumped around dancing getting excited about the race. People were throwing handfuls of color dust at one another like an old school cafeteria food fight.
As I looked at the color dyed bucket of water on the stage, I signaled to Donna to take the water launcher and start squirting people. She was terrified of doing that, but I told her that’s what the people came for.. so go crazy… We were like 4 kids on a stage overlooking a crowd. Luis throwing color packs while Jessica and Donna were launching colored water into the air. It’s moments like that, where I am thankful for the amazing and positive people who have come into my life through a shared love of dance.
Later on, Jessica made a comment that I feel rings true not only for the event but given the current climate and tumultuous environment facing our world.