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Published January 23, 2011, 12:00 AM

Swift: Zumba dance workout doesn’t quite work out

Irwin and I have finally worked our ways to the Z’s in our DVD collection.

Irwin and I have finally worked our ways to the Z’s in our DVD collection.

That means we’ve spent the last three weekends watching a mammoth historical mini-series on African Zulu warriors.

But don’t be too impressed. We’ve also revisited “Zoolander: The Director’s Cut,” a Lifetime movie titled “Zsa-Zsa: Give Me Some Gabor!” and my long-overlooked “Zumba Dance” DVD set.

I had ordered the latter some time ago and then conveniently tucked it in the back of the armoire so I could attend an important appointment with my friends Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines.

Now the four-disc box set taunted me with its photos of firm, young dancers and its promise to turn my workout into a “fun-filled dance party!” I suspected that if I tried to hold such a dance party, guests would get food poisoning from the shrimp dip, someone would throw up in the ficus and someone else in the throes of samba fever would suffer a debilitating groin injury.

Still, I had to try. I had exercised too many workout tapes before, ranging from an ill-fated Jazzercise jag in the ’80s to a “Yoga for Beginners” stint a few years ago. After years of public humiliation in gym class, I now equate exercise with an ATM withdrawal. That is, it’s something to be done secretly, with furtive looks over my shoulder to make sure no one is watching.

But for some reason, the Zumba routine, with its line of Latin-inspired dance steps, appealed to me. It looked deceptively easy. It promised to burn 1,000 calories an hour. And it seemed really fun, which would surely help me stick to it.

Besides, you couldn’t argue with the results. On the infomercials, one woman reported losing 125 pounds from doing Zumba. “Mr. Zumba” turned out to be a choreographer named Beto Perez, who sported a lean body and waffle-iron abs. A normal person might have looked at those formidable abdomen muscles and felt inspired to work out. I felt inspired to eat waffles.

I popped in the beginner’s disc first. Beto and two incredibly toned vixens proceeded to take me through the steps to learn the basic dances. First I struggled through the merengue, which I used to think was a delightful pie filling. It started out easily enough, with Mr. Zumba and his Zumbarbies urging me to march in place. At least I knew I could march. After all, I’d been in high school marching band and had been sent to a particularly sadistic Farmer’s Union camp in junior high.

But then they added sexy hip movements, swirly arm gymnastics and some fancy footwork that seemed to defy my German hips. My previous dance training consisted of whirling around the living room to “The Sound of Music” soundtrack and learning a mean polka from my mother. My mastery of “The Chicken Dance” wouldn’t be much help here.

I also attempted to learn a series of dances – the samba, flamenco – that had previously just been buttons on my parents’ home Wurlitzer.

I don’t know if I burned 1,000 calories that night, and I know I looked nothing like the svelte, sexy dancers on the DVD.

But I do think I’ll try it again.

And I do know this.

I want waffles.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tammy Swift at (701) 241-5525