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February 25, 2011 > Goodbye workout, hello party

Goodbye workout, hello party

By Julie Grabowski

It is pretty much a given that any New Year's resolutions list will include a commitment to fitness. Again. And despite good intentions and the numerous routines and programs available, exercise can be a tricky thing to stick with. But what if your fitness was more like a dance party?

Zumba is a Latin and international music inspired dance program that creates a party-like atmosphere, making exercise fun and addictive. Created in 2001 by dancer and choreographer Alberto "Beto" Perez, Zumba has gotten over 10 million people groovin' through their workouts in more than 90,000 gyms and studios in over 110 countries. Gone are the days of counting reps, strain and boredom. It's all about letting yourself be moved by the music, and having a good time.

"I think people want to learn to dance without taking dance classes," says local Zumba instructor Cheryl Louie, citing the popularity of such shows as Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance. Zumba takes a variety of international flavors of dance and puts it into one program where people can follow along and input their own style. "It's the freedom to move and feel good about yourself," Louie says.

A fitness instructor certified in many other areas such as Pilates and spinning, Louie first tried Zumba at an exercise convention and said she thought, "Oooh, I like this!" It appealed to her passion for dance, a love that harkens back to her childhood. She participated in the program as a student for two years before becoming an official Zumba instructor, and has now been teaching for three years and leads nine classes a week.

Zumba uses many dance styles and moves including salsa, merengue, reggaeton, flamenco, cumbia, bachata, Bhangra, hip-hop, urban and African. And while popular artists on Louie's playlist include Enrique Iglesias, Shakira, Celia Cruz, and Olga Tanon, Zumba incorporates many different sounds, and can have you moving to a hip-hop beat or shaking it Bollywood style.

"Have fun, dance, enjoy, be fit, be happy, be crazy, but we are working every single muscle group!" says Louie.

Zumba has been a part of Dinora Corona's life for a couple of years now. She attends classes with her niece Isela Parra and Parra's husband Jose, who enlivens and encourages the room with his punctuating shouts and calls. The women love everything about Zumba, specifically mentioning the music and friendly atmosphere.

Lorie Robertson started Zumba in November, trying out the class that Louie leads at St. Rose Hospital where Robertson works. She says she and her husband are trying to be healthier and get in better shape, set a better example for their daughters. Now she does Zumba four times a week and has made it a family affair, bringing her 11 and 14-year-old daughters with her on Saturday mornings. "They love it," she says, stating that one daughter told her, "I'm sorry Mom, I thought Zumba was easy." Maybe not easy, but certainly fun. And the instructor helps. "I really like Cheryl, she makes me keep going," says Robertson.

Lota Perenne had heard about Zumba from TV and was looking for a class. She got a close up look at the party when a Zumba demo was held at her younger daughter's school. Perenne has been involved in the program since October and said she has seen good weight loss. She brought her eldest daughter with her to class and she too has become a Zumba convert. "It's a good exercise and you will lose weight, definitely!" says Perenne.

However youth oriented all this energy and dancing might seem, Zumba embraces a wide and diverse age range and has fans of every generation. One of Louie's students is 73. The program also offers different types of classes such as toning and aqua options, as well as age specific classes including Zumbatomic for ages 4 to 12, and Zumba Gold for the older generation with mobility issues.

Zumba is an infectious, high-energy experience that will lift your spirits, work you into a sweat, and leave you sorry when it's over. And for Louie there are only two requirements: to have fun and shake what your mama gave you. "Zumba isn't about perfection, it's about movin', groovin' and havin' fun," she says.

So if your fitness goals and routine have got you down, join the Zumba party and dance your way to health and happiness in the New Year.

Cheryl Louie teaches three classes a week at Joanne Brown Dancers in Union City and will soon be offering more options due to the growth in attendance. She can be reached at (510) 325-9674 or zumbacheryl.louie@gmail.com. For more information on Zumba or to find additional classes near you visit www.zumba.com.

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