Okay, Zumba has been the hot new fitness trend for a while, but it’s only just taken Bedminster by storm. Classes popped up in every available space at the beginning of January enticing those with New Year’s fitness resolutions to give it a go.
I went to ‘Zumba with Kylie’ at the Tobacco Factory’s dance studio and was hooked immediately. The moves and the music were irresistibly funky. The class started with giant side steps to an African drum beat, progressed to some hip wiggling and body rolling to various beats and rhythms, ending with some Riverdance-like moves to ‘I’ll tell me ma’. In an hour, I had danced my way around the world, shaken off my stresses and got my endorphins flowing.
Usually craving the quiet of a run or the sociability of my circuits class, I had forgotten what a motivator music could be. It was like a healthy version of clubbing, without the vodka, the fags and the struggle to find a cab home.
There’s not the usual eight-step counting or mid-move prompts you’d get in a traditional aerobics class. The idea is that instead of counting the reps you let the music move you. Move you it does, whether it’s French reggae, merengue, salsa or the theme tune to Take Me Out.
It takes a few weeks to get familiar with the routines. I was able to draw on the few salsa classes I took in my twenties, childhood memories of dancing to Uptown girl by Billy Joel and the brief demonstrations of Irish dancing given to me by my Auntie Breda (one, two, tree and a one, two, tree). Shoulder shimmying and belly dancing are moves I’ve yet to master, but Kylie assures us that if it’s wobbling, it’s working.
The company blurb for Zumba calls it an ‘exhilarating, easy-to-follow, Latin-inspired dance fitness-party’. Exhilarating? Definitely. Easy to follow? Sometimes. I’d say it’s harder than aerobics, but easier than dancing to Jessie J’s price tag on Just Dance. Latin-inspired? Well, there were less Latin moves than I thought. The wide variety of music and moves was a surprise to me and other first-timers, especially the Irish jig, but a nice one.
Since it’s inception in 2001, more than 12 million people are taking Zumba classes in more than 125 countries. For the first couple of classes I went to, it felt like all 12 million were there. Attendance has waned a tad since new year, but not much.
There’s a mix of ages at Zumba and a few men, but there are a lot of mums like me happy to get out of the bedtime routine for one night and others who find it a great way to stop the Sunday-night feeling that can strike before the working week. We’re buzzing but home and showered in time for Homeland – a perfect way to round off the weekend.
Zumba was created by Alberto Perez, a fitness instructor in Cali, Colombia. Apparently he went to teach an aerobics class and forgot his traditional aerobics music. So he used his own tapes: a mix of the salsa and meringue music he grew up with. He met a couple of entrepreneurs (both also called Alberto) and The Zumba Fitness-party was born.
It started with a DVD and an infomercial. In 2005, the Zumba Academy was launched to licence Zumba instructors to teach. In 2010, they launched a video game on the Wii, Xbox and PS3. In 2012 they came to Bedminster and I’m glad they did.