Ricky Martin’s ‘Livin la vida loca’ pulses through Glenbrook Gym as eight women shake their hips and pump their arms in the air. The group stands in two uneven lines facing a smiling instructor whose feet zig, zag and twist in perfect time with the music. Her arms and legs fold and unfold as Ricky’s hot Latin beat bounces off the high ceiling.
My feet tangle, my arms are up when hers are down, and I’m facing right when everyone else is facing left.
This is my first taste of Zumba.
Zumba, a modern aerobic-dance exercise, is one of the Wellness Activities offered on campus.
“It’s like a dance party,” said Melissa Shaw, a junior who attends Zumba classes every week. “Everyone is dancing, having fun, and just enjoying themselves.”
Fun is a word thrown around a lot by Zumba participants.
“This is fun,” said Jacklyn Van Eck, a regular Zumba dancer. “I hate the gym. I get bored really easily. When there’re people there around me, I’ll push myself more. It’s some of the same moves you’d do in the gym, but not running in place looking at the same thing. Or weight lifting – I hate weight lifting. But Zumba is different.”
Zumba, as an alternative from the monotony of the gym, appeals to people.
“An hour of Zumba goes faster than an hour on the treadmill. Time just flies,” Shaw said.
Getting lost in the rhythm of the dance attracts a lot of people to Zumba, said Tracy Tedesco, the class’s instructor and co-owner of Peak Performance Gym at the Howe Center in Rutland.
“It’s popular because it doesn’t feel like fitness. A lot of people want to do things that don’t feel like drudgery. With Zumba they can focus on the steps and they have a Calgon moment and can’t think about the fact that you’re working out because you’re focused on the steps,” Tedesco said.
The steps are lightning fast and involve bouncing, spinning and shaking what you’ve got.
“Watch her feet,” Erin Devost, a regular, said when asked for advice. “The footsteps are key. It takes a while to get it, if you keep going you learn more moves and it gets easier and better. But, really, just have fun.”
Some people are turned off by the dancing.
“A lot of people tell me they can’t do it because they don’t have rhythm,” Tedesco said. “I want to break down that barrier: we all walk, we all breathe. That’s rhythm. We all have rhythm.”
Zumba, which means quick, blends Cardio to burn fat and core movements that are highlighted in Latin dance, Tedesco explains.
It all started when Alberto Perez an aerobics teacher in Cali, Columbia forgot music for his class. He had to improvise and teach the class using his own playlist of salsa and Latin music. He just did what he did: danced. And people loved it.
In overall participation, Zumba is the most popular Wellness Activity followed by yoga and kickboxing, according to Lyn Sawyer Director of Human Resources at Castleton. Sawyer is a member of the Castleton Wellness Committee, which was is responsible for all the Wellness Activities.
She is also a regular Zumba-er.
“The first time we did Zumba, we laughed hysterically,” Sawyer said. “The music was so motivating and I thought, ‘Am I exercising?’ It’s just dancing and moving around.”
Many people are self conscious about looking foolish, Sawyer said.
“Just come and have fun. Don’t think anyone is watching you-we’re not.”
Tedesco warns her students not to take themselves too seriously.
“There’s no right or wrong way,” she said. “If you’re moving you’re doing something right. Relax, have fun, and goof it up!