If you’re not deaf and have been anywhere around women and/ or spandex in the last 18 months, you’ve probably heard of Zumba. The Latin- inspired “calorie- burning dance fitness party” is trademarked in America and 124 other countries. Like every great idea of today, the concept was worth nothing unless its creators (all named Alberto) turned it into a business. Zumba, like Bikram Yoga, is a copyrighted program with a specific certification process. The Zumba brand began with DVDs, a logical choice, and now sells fitness apparel (including Zumba zapatos), “toning sticks” (a cross between hand weights and maracas), jewelry, video games, music CD’s and semi- annual Z- Life magazine. The dance craze has received extensive media coverage from major publications like Glamour and Newsweek in the States, Europe and Latin America. It’s no wonder that Zumba is fitness’ most popular buzzword. But, despite the word of mouth (face it- “Zumba” is just fun to say), I didn’t know much about it. I’d heard rumors, like that mostly moms make up the Zumba classes or that the moves were way to hard to learn in one session. I’d also heard that it could do amazing things for your body (release endorphins, relieve stress, cure cancer et. al). I decided to investigate, and took a class Monday night at the San Luis Obipso YMCA with instructor Monica Haarberg, a CP 5th year.
Fact or Whacked? Myths about Zumba Debunked.
Myth #1: “It’s only for old ladies!”
TRUTH: There are 5 branches of Zumba, and only one of them is for old ladies. Since Alberto Perez, Alberto Perlman and Alberto Aghion started Zumba in 2001, it has grown and diversified to meet the public’s needs. The brand now includes original Zumba, Zumba Gold, Zumba Toning, Aqua Zumba, Zumbatomic (for kids) and Zumba in the Circuit. Zumba Gold (and its spinoff, Zumba Gold Toning) “targets the largest growing segment of the population: baby boomers” (official site). The pacing is a bit slower and moves a bit less complicated (“simpler moves, not too much motion,” says Monica), but limited accessibility to the program doesn’t stop active seniors from holding up in faster- paced, higher energy classes designed for “everyone”. True, the demographic in North American gyms differs greatly from the brand’s hot young ethnic people used to advertise the CD and DVD sets. At the Y, Monica sees mostly middle- aged women and moms “because we’re surrounded by the retirement homes.” Not all classes are that way. “My roommate loves it. She gets pissed if there’s no place to Zumba,” says Aryn Sanderson, a Cal Poly sophomore living in PCV. I asked Monica if Zumba instructors were on the younger side, since I felt like they were. “When I got certified, I saw all ages from 18 to 60,”
“Zumba is for all ages and all backgrounds,” Monica emphasizes.
Myth #2: “I’ll look like an idiot.”
TRUTH: You probably will. So will everyone else. Zumba isn’t a high- stakes, detail- oriented dance class; it’s really all about the workout, the camaraderie and the experience. Because the classes are comprised of people of varying ages, physical ability, and coordination, no one class looks completely uniform. Even if you do everything “right” (which you can’t, because there’s no wrong way to dance), you’ll look like an idiot because the people around you will look completely different. Just let go and have fun.
Myth #3: “It’s a bunch of freaky tribal and ethnic music.”
TRUTH: All three founders grew up on Columbian music like Salsa and Merengue, and the course description contains the words “Latin- inspired”, so excpect a fair amount of that. All the songs have a upbeat tempo and a touch of techno, so it doesn’t totally feel like you’re standing naked in a drum circle. Overall, however, it’s a good mix of Latin, Hip- Hop, reggaeton, swing, pop, Bollywood, the works. “It has to be 70% Zumba songs and 30% can be whatever you want it to be,” says Monica.
“I’m really picky when it comes to rhythm. I pick fun songs with distinct beats, and I like it when you can hear the transitions in the song. [In every song] there’s a trigger word and that repeats the move.”
The site boasts that “Grammy- award winning” producers collaborate on the recordings; Pit Bull, Shakira and Wyclef Jean are fans. The most adventurous song we danced to was probably “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)”, Shakira’s song for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Myth #4: “I can’t dance. Zumba will be too hard for me.”
TRUTH: Au contraire! Most instructors break down individual moves before diving into the dance, so those of us who can’t do more than stylized stretches won’t drown completely. Also, each song has an easy- to- follow formula.
“We have three or four moves and then you repeat them throughout the song,” explains Monica. “You can choreograph your routines and there’s a strict way you have to choreograph the dance. You have to do it Zumba style, and they explain that when you get certified.”
Sure, if you don’t already know how to cha- cha, salsa or quickstep, it might take you a while. But after a while, dance steps you once thought difficult come easy. “At first it was really tricky and difficult to learn the dances, but after the third or fourth time I got used to it,” says Nicole, who does Zumba at Kennedy. “I was really intimidated by it, but I came with a friend and that helped a lot.”
Zumba is most popular with women, who tend to openly love dancing, feeling good, and the color pink. As a result, the Zumba community is warm, welcoming and fun; many instructors refer to their sessions as “Zumba Parties” instead of workouts or classes. A few Fridays ago, Kennedy hosted a “Zumba party” with a $15 cover charge that went to the Susan G. Komen foundation for breast cancer research. Curves, a national chain, also hosts Zumba in their studios every Saturday morning.* Because it’s a popular dance class, you don’t need a Zumba studio to get your Zumba on: many gyms and community centers in the San Luis Obispo offer the class, including Kennedy and the Y. Zumba.com has this instructor search anyone can use to contact certified instructors in their town.
Zumba, Please! Places to Zumba in SLO
1020 Southwood Drive, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
Monica teaches 6:30-7:30 on Mondays and Wednesdays; free with membership.
Kennedy Club Fitness
188 Tank Farm Road San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
Tuesday 4:15 PM, Thursday 5:30 PM, Friday 9:15 AM; free with membership
Bldg 4700, San Luis Obispo Cuesta College Campus on Hwy 1
San Luis Obispo, CA 93403-8106; Phone: (805) 546-3132
Tue & Fri, Oct 18, 2011 – Jan 10, 2012; 12:10-12:50pm
(No Class: Nov 11, 25, Dec 2, 23 & 30); $90 covers all classes
SLO Performance Athletics Gymnastics and Cheer
4484 Broad Street, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401, (805) 547-1496: Some classes available. Call ahead. First class free, $5 drop- in or 5 classes for $20
From time to time, Sally Unks hosts Zumba parties in the Veteran’s Center with fun themes like 80’s or Mother’s Day.
Check SLO County Zumba’s Facebook page here for latest updates from some certified SLO instructors.
Would you do an activity that was more popular with another gender? What are some rumors you’ve heard about Zumba? How do you feel about dancing in public?
* as of press time, San Luis Obispo’s curves location was not active.