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 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.”

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