The dance revolution keeps on revolving

I’m at the gym, I’m wearing my runners, all the Lululemon gear I can afford, and I’m shakin’ it to fantastic music. This cannot possibly be considered a workout, can it? Zumba is the newest dance revolution to hit Winnipeg and it’s going to stay a while.

Alberto Perez, Colombian professional dancer and celebrity choreographer, invented Zumba when he forgot to bring his regular music to one of the aerobics classes he was teaching and decided to improvise with the Latin music he had with him in the car. Needless to say, this memory lapse was the birth of the newest fitness craze. Originally called “rumbacize” by Perez, his move to the marketing mecca of the United States resulted in a name change to Zumba.

Zumba is now being taught in over 40,000 locations in 75 countries. Recently in Winnipeg, over 10,000 people attended Ciclovia where streets were reclaimed by people for the day. Inspired by the tradition that has been happening every Sunday for the past 30 years in Colombia, major parts of downtown were closed to cars and free exercise classes were offered. Zumba was among the most popular attractions that day. Nisha Tuli, marketing and communications manager of the Downtown Biz reported that “there were people who came to Ciclovia specifically to attend the Zumba classes.” The Latin-inspired dance moves that are the foundation of the workout to salsa music, meringue, flamenco, cumbia, jazz, reggaeton, hip hop and samba were certainly an appropriate hit.

Given the rich history of the music and moves used in Zumba, instructor Christina Vasquez believes it is her responsibility to make participants aware of the dance styles they are learning and doing: “I always try to explain which style of dance we are doing, what the step is called and sometimes give the history behind it. This way people have more respect for the traditional moves and they know why they are done a certain way. It really brings them into the song, and generally they enjoy the experience more.”

According to local Zumba instructor Lana Maidment, Zumba’s popularity is not surprising. “Zumba is a fitness-based workout that makes the hour fly by. Participants feel inspired and happy after they do this amazing workout,” she said. This is what makes the cardio and abdominal workout so appealing for many, as 500-1,000 calories can be lost while dancing to the upbeat music during a one hour class.

Pamela Ryczko, a self-proclaimed Zumba fanatic who would drive all over the city to take Zumba classes before she became an instructor at Shapes, feels rewarded by how much Zumba participants enjoy the classes. She explains: “I’ve lost 55 pounds since starting Zumba in February. I took the workshop as a gift to myself for all my hard work, and now I get to share my story with so many others. I love to instruct it because it’s an escape from the normal workout routine and participants are smiling from ear to ear.” Ryczko goes on to speculate that Zumba’s popularity is also due to its appropriateness for all fitness levels.

Yet another enthusiastic Winnipeg Zumba instructor, Sharon Delbridge, believes that people love doing Zumba because it makes them feel great. “The music and moves raise your spirits and make you feel like you’re on an incredible high. You have so much fun doing it that you don’t realize you’re exercising,” said Delbridge.

As Zumba fever continues take over Winnipeg and the world, it is also diversifying. There are now Zumba fitness classes for children, a weight-training version, a water version and even a seniors version of the classes. Zumba classes are offered all over the city. Christina Vasquez offers the following advice to people taking their first class: “walk in with an open mind, stay for the entire class, don’t worry about what you look like, what matters most is how you feel. If you are sweating and laughing, then you are doing it right!”