What do health clubs, schools, gyms, community centers, YMCAs, living rooms and backyards all have in common?
They all are spaces for ZUMBA!
If you have been living in a cave and do not have a clue to what Zumba is, it is a sixty-minute dance class that originated in Cali, Columbia with dance routines that are choreographed to both fast and slow Latin and international rhythms. The routines incorporate resistance training, toning and sculpting of the body but most importantly the burning of calories. They say you burn an average of 500 calories per class. (Of course it depends on how high you jump and lift your legs or the level of intensity with which you propel your hips.)
I was in Sausalito a couple of years ago hanging out with Carolena—Ms. Gypsy Deva— and I saw a poster advertising Zumba classes. Carolena informed me that it was the hottest new craze in California. When I got home to Honolulu, I looked up the Zumba website—there was a sprinkling of classes being offered but they were not close by or at convenient times. I had almost forgotten about Zumba when over Labor Day weekend I caught Pamela Young covering a Zumba class on KITV News. I was a little irritated because they did not mention where the class was but they did flash the instructor’s name on the screen: Jennifer Hintnaus. I found Jen on the Zumba website and e-mailed to inquire where she was teaching at. The particular class on KITV News was located at the Taekwondo Center in Niu Valley Shopping Center where they have Zumba classes on Wednesday mornings at 8:30 am and Sunday mornings at 9:00 am. The first class is free and the cost is a reasonable $6 per class thereafter. There were many classes being held within ten miles of my house, but I wanted to check out the specific class that I saw on tv because it featured the song “Jai Ho” which is a Hindi song (if you remember the movie Slumdog Millionaire back in 2008) composed by A.R. Rahman with lyrics by Gulzar full of catchy beats.
I e-mailed Padma and Andrea and they were game to check out the class with me and it turned out to be fabulous! The Taekwando center is perfect for Zumba because they have a thick padded mat, so we could go barefoot, which is so much more comfortable. There were about thirty women and three men in the class—one of whom was Jen’s husband Tom. The class started off with Natasha Bedingfield’s song “Pocket Full of Sunshine” for a warm up and ended with Enya’s “Sail Away” for a cool down. In between those two songs was where we experienced all the sweaty, heart-pumping, calorie-burning action as we danced our little booties off. The class was a total blast! I used to love to dance—the song “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees and the disco dancing genre defined my late teens and early twenties. Eric does not like to dance, so my dancing shoes have been retired for over two decades.Honestly, it was the best cardio exercise I have had since my step aerobics days. After just forty-five minutes into it, my heart was pounding and I had to look at the clock to see if I could keep up with the pace and get through the entire hour. Thank god, there was only fifteen more minutes left. After class I was totally drenched and my clothes were soaked through with sweat. Even though Jen kept advising everyone to hydrate between songs, I did not drink any because as in yoga, I wanted to build up and maintain the heat in my body. Plus, if I had taken in some water, I think I would have gotten a side stitch from all the twisting, shaking, jumping and thrusting.
Having been bitten by the Zumba bug, I went the following Wednesday and it was a lot easier because I had a basic grasp of the dance routines and I knew mentally that I could get through it. What I find to be so unique about the class is the wide range of participants: many bodies in a variety of shapes and sizes as well as a huge diversity in ages. From a twenty-something-year old club-hopping whippersnapper to an adorable married couple in their late sixties. This past Sunday it was such an inspiration to see a grandmother, daughter, granddaughter trio in the back row.
I love Zumba because it is like being a kid again. At the age of forty-six, I am reliving my carefree youth through the twirling, skipping and running around that I used to do on the playground (but now I do in Zumba class!) My inner child has never been happier as she races out for playtime with enthusiastic, wild abandonment. The music makes her giggle and laugh and we find the grown up in me can’t help but smile throughout the entire class. The other day, Cyra yelled over at me during a number that it was like Goddess dancing. She hit it right on the head! That is exactly what we are doing, we are letting our inner Goddesses loose and expressing ourselves and spirits to their fullest!
Now that I sort of know the steps and routines, my favorite thing to do is to watch other people in the class. I never realized before how a person’s personality is revealed through their dancing. There are just two type of dancers – inhibited and uninhibited! The big give away is clearly showcased in the hip thrusts. Some are proper, stiff, controlled, shy; while some are playful, lustful and sensual. One girl in class actually moans and grunts when she pumps her hips. What is so unique about Zumba is it does not matter whether you have starred in Swan Lake or have two left feet. All that is required of you is to first, just listen to the music and second, let your body translate it—this becomes your personal masterpiece! When I peek over at Padma, she exudes her free and easy laid back style, while Ani reveals her regally trained classical dance background and Cyra the queen of salsa—lets her hips fly. Padma told me after the first class that she could really see my hula background. Definitely—the Shakira hip-shaking and other belly dancing moves are reminiscent of my Tahitian dancing days.
Our teacher Jen is spirited and dynamic. Her high energetic song mix inspires you to dance like Michael Jackson. I like that she still calls out a pattern of steps and is constantly encouraging us to work at our pace— for example, jumping higher for more cardio or just lightly stepping if you are taking it easy. I have not been to any other Zumba classes on the islands, but Kaui has and she said the other class she attended was more hip-hop. Jen’s classes include all the different styles of dance: Merengue, Salsa, Cumbia, Raggaeton, Chachacha, Hip-Hop, Flamenco, Mambo, Belly Dance, Bhangra and Fox Trot, and every week she is always throwing in a new song and routine. My favorite songs are “Whenever, Wherever” and “Waka Waka” by Shakira; “Just Dance” by Lady Gaga; “Jai Ho” by the Mumbai Dolls; “Your Love Is My Drug” by Kesha and “Let Me Think About It” by Ida Corr vs. Fedde Le Grande.
Suerte (Whenever, Wherever)
Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)
For all of you who know me as Ms Pitta, Fire, Dragon girl. . . you know that when I find something that catches my interest, I am very thorough (though some of you might say borderline obsessive, but I would have to object). The success of Zumba is located in its MUSIC, which I completely fell in love with. Since I never go dancing or even listen to the radio anymore because I always seem to be listening to some talk on a healing modality or spiritual philosophy or my favorite Abraham CDs, I did not have a clue as to who was singing what. Of course, I had to have my own Zumba music CD, so I sneaked in my tape recorder and recorded the class. My cleverness was a bust—someone’s cell phone kept ringing and a girl in class was singing to several of the songs and kept shouting, “This is my favorite song!” So moving on to plan B which was, during class, I would memorize one line to one song, then go home and search for the song on the Internet. It is so amazing how you can just type in three to five words and voila! the sought after song title is found. The hardest song to find was “Let Me Think About It.” For all of you rolling your eyes at me, I will have you know that several other “inquisitive” people had also been searching the Internet for the same title as well. One person asked, “Who is the techno sounding artist that sings, “You say you want me/you say you need me/you say you love me/I can’t believe it?” Ms. cool Ani was able to assist in indentifying some of the songs (it helps that she goes dancing and Jazzy (her daughter) has “Your Love Is My Drug” as a ring tone). God sometimes I feel so old! But this old timer sure is a big fan of Kesha now! I also went online and checked out the Zumba CDs on the Zumba website and was able to download from iTunes some of the Latin songs from our class. The Latin songs make me want to hop a plane to South America tomorrow just to dance the night away!
If you are still thinking “obsessive” Jen announced that since she has been teaching, over the past six months she has lost thirty-three pounds. By the way, she has an incredible body. Kaui, a fellow Zumba fanatic, decided to take the “Zumba challenge” (which is something she created, it does not actually exist, yet!) She intends to do Zumba everyday for thirty days. When I asked her in class last Wednesday how her Zumba challenge was going, she lifted up her shirt and sure enough: a flat stomach! Hmmmm, I wonder: do I have time for a Zumba challenge? I have been taking Zumba classes for over a month now and definitely have not lost a single pound. To be honest, I have found that Zumba makes me ravenous and I think I am actually eating more. (Leave it to yours truly, Ms. Bizarro, to be the only nut that gains weight doing Zumba).
Eric and I were heading to Sausalito for my beautiful friend Namita’s Indian wedding extravaganza and I did not want to miss my Zumba conditioning so I found several classes I could attend from the Zumba website. By just entering your zip code, a lengthy list of classes will come up in a twenty-five mile surrounding radius. Most Zumba classes require shoes and my old sneakers and hiking trainers were not going to cut it. I needed to get me some new dance shoes! (Who even knew that this was a designated shoe category! This confirms I’ve been in dance hibernation for way too long.)
I looked up the top Zumba shoes on the Internet and of course there was an article titled “Top 10 shoes for Zumba.”
The article says the Nike Musique line is produced specifically for Zumba classes so after reading several raving reviews of this shoe, I ended up getting a pair of Nike Musique IV from the Zappos website. Our instructor Jen wears a pair of Capezio Full Body FootUndeez. They look like foot nylons with support for the heel and arch. I checked out our local dance supply store, Step-N-Up-Hawaii and they were $30. I found them online at Discount Dance Supply for $14.95. I like that Capezio offers 4 shades; I got light sun-tan.
The personal success story of Alberto Perez, the creator of Zumba, is so inspirational. Through his passion for dance and internal inspiration, he created a million-dollar dance/fitness empire by his late thirties. When he was eight years old, he saw the movie Grease and recognized his true passion was dance. “Beto” as he was called, was brought up by his single mother in Cali, Columbia and at the age of fourteen his mother was injured by gunfire and he had to work three jobs to help support them. There was never any money for dance classes and even though he was without any formal dance training, Beto was able to win a national lambada contest and was offered a dance scholarship to the top dance academy in Columbia.
One day Beto went to teach his step aerobics class and forgot to take the music. With great panache he improvised and went to his car and retrieved his cassette tape that had all of his favorite Latin music taped onto it. The class he created from the songs on that cassette tape was the birthing of Zumba. Ten years later, Zumba is being taught at over 60,000 locations in 105 countries, has sold millions of DVDs, and has changed the lives of Zumba fanatics worldwide with an astonishing 7.5 million participants taking Zumba classes every week.
On the Zumba website, you can find dozens of “Zumba” branded items from clothing, shoes to beach towels and key chains. If you are interested in becoming a certified teacher, there seems to be a certification course in every city. The cost is $225 and the certification course is for one nine hour day. For certification on Oahu, contact Madalene Aponte at email@example.com. There are six categories of Zumba:
- Basic Level 1 & 2 (traditional class including basic rhythms of Merengue, Foxtrot, Salsa, Cumbia, Reggaeton, Belly Dance, Waltz, Flemenco, Tango, Samba
- Gold (geared for seniors or less conditioned participants)
- Toning (Zumba class using maraca-like Zumba weights)
- Aqua (Zumba in the water)
- Zumbatonic (For children ages 4-12)
For more information visit: http://www.zumba.com/us/
I hope to see you in class one day. Gratias Vobis Ago!