Zumba: a popular dance workout
ALatin dance party is happening in Bergen every day of the week and at all hours. Best of all, those Zumba fitness parties are open to everyone. Just by clicking on zumba.com and searching for nearby locations, a potential student will find hundreds of classes taught by certified instructors.
Local enthusiasts are riding the wave of popularity that started in 2001 when an aerobic dance instructor in Cali, Colombia, named Beto fortuitously forgot to bring the right music tape to class. He popped one of his salsa and merengue cassettes into the player, and the rest, as they say, is history.
There are now 14 million participants in 186 countries at 140,000 locations who shake everything they have to the beat of the low-impact, high-calorie-burning cardio workout. And best of all, there are eight different types of Zumba currently being taught, so most students will find just the right type of class for them.
Lourdes Elshahawi teaches at the YWCA Bergen County in Ridgewood and at Bally Total Fitness in Saddle Brook. The very popular and animated instructor fell in love with Zumba 10 years ago.
“I had pre-eclampsia during my pregnancy,” Elshahawi says, “and I was left with high blood pressure and bad balance after the baby was born.”
Hoping to improve her health, she signed up for a Zumba class at her local gym.
“I was born dancing in the Dominican Republic,” she says with a smile, adding that neighbors would stop to see her moves when she was only 11⁄2 years old. It’s not surprising that she would be drawn to a Latin dance exercise class as an adult.
After just a few Zumba classes, her health started to improve, and now it comes as a huge surprise to her students that the teacher who looks like the picture of fitness wasn’t always like that.
Gloria DiBella of River Edge takes every class she can from Elshahawi.
“The music is so much fun,” DiBella says enthusiastically, “and Lourdes is great at adapting it to every age and need.”
Mary Peterkin of Ridgewood agrees that both the Zumba and Zumba Toning classes are a great way to exercise. “I just love the music,” Peterkin says. Tae kwon do and Latin dancing might not seem to go together, but at Faustini’s Institute of Martial Arts in Oradell, children can take Zumbatomics while adults can enhance their blocks and kicks with regular Zumba.
“My Zumba instructor at our school, Lynn Weimer, once told me that Zumba is the perfect partner to martial arts and fitness because they both focus on the wellness of one’s mind, body and spirit,” the school’s founder and owner, Richard Faustini, says. “Zumba helps build strength and overall well-being, which is important when studying the martial arts.”
Anabel Guerrera started taking Zumba classes in 2003, not long after she immigrated to South Florida from Venezuela.
“I learned from the people who started the movement,” Guerrera says. “It first caught on among the Latin people in Florida and then spread to the rest of the world.”
She loved Zumba so much that it wasn’t long before she became an instructor. Guerrera teaches regular Zumba classes at Gold’s Gym in Paramus, and at the YWCA in Ridgewood, she moves the party to the pool. While Guerrera dances on the pool deck and calls out moves to the pulsating music, her class follows along in the water. The movements have been carefully designed to build muscle strength and tone the body.
“I’m not a diva. I’m an instructor and I take it very seriously,” Guerrera, says.
She watches each individual to see that they are making just the right moves in the water. During a recent class, the women and men smiled and laughed as they splashed along to the music.
Colleen Fontes, the fitness and dance manager at the YWCA, loves the happiness that people find in all the different types of Zumba.
“It’s like going to a nightclub with your friends,” Fontes says, “but there’s no liquor, smoke or hangover the day after.”