Shake, rattle and Zumba in Eagle County |

Shake, rattle and Zumba in Eagle County

Brenda Himelfarb
Vail CO, Colorado
HL Zumba1 KA 02-12-08

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” Shimmy, shake and get some hip action going! Think Santana, Gloria Estavan or Los Lonely Boys. Put it all together and you have Zumba, literally, the hottest “gym” dance to sweep the country.

In recent years many clubs have offered classes in funk, hip hop, stomp and even pole-dancing, to name of few, but since its nationwide debut on NBC’s Today show in October, Zumba, a fusion of Latin and international music, has popped up at gyms around the country and here in Eagle County.

As the story goes, fitness trainer Beto Perez arrived to teach an aerobics class one day and found that he had forgotten his music. His only option was to grab whatever music he had in his car ” tapes that he had put together of his favorite songs. The traditional Latin salsa, rumba and merengue music was the music he had been raised with in Columbia.

Beto improvised the routines on the spot, incorporating steps from each dance genre, and his students loved it. Zumba, as he called it, soon became the most popular class at his fitness facility.

“I first saw Zumba on the Today show, while I was working,” said personal trainer Jennifer Roberts, who now teaches the class at the Aria Club and Spa. “As soon as I got home I went on the Zumba Web site and registered to become a certified instructor.”

“I knew that Zumba would do well up here,” continued Roberts, “so I just jumped into it. I have no dance background, but as a personal trainer, I try to engage various muscle groups for a good cardio workout. Additionally, I take time to teach the steps before we begin. I think people appreciate that.”

In 1999, Perez brought his class to the United States and with two partners created a company based on the Zumba fitness philosophy. Today, there are over 2,500 instructors worldwide, with workshops, training and classes as far away as Australia.

Certified instructors are taught the basic steps of Zumba based on Latin dances like cha cha cha, rumba, merengue, salsa and cumbia, to name a few and are encouraged to add a lot of arm and hip movements for a total body workout.

But in Latin dancing, it’s not the moves you do, but how you move that’s really important. That’s really the root of Zumba. And that means getting the hips moving properly. So, the trick is to get the movement by alternating the bending of the knees. As the knee bends, the same hip drops; conversely, as the knee straightens, the same hip rises. This is called the “Cuban” motion. A common mistake people make is to twist the hips in an effort to achieve the motion. Sort of like the dance Elaine from Seinfeld performed. She jerked. She twisted. She had no rhythm.

And rhythm is what Zumba is about.

“I love the class,” said Nanami Matsui, one of Roberts’ students. “It’s super-cardio, the hour flies by and the music is great.”

Alejandra Billoni, who teaches Zumba at the Avon Recreation Center, grew up in Argentina and began learning Latin dancing 15 years ago.

“This kind of dancing was very revolutionary for us,” Billoni said. “We were a very serious country, but I loved the moves and a friend from Cuba taught me the real merengue and the real salsa.

“Then I saw Beto demonstrate Zumba at a fitness convention in Las Vegas and I was crazy about it. I had that seed inside me. And when I saw the possibility of putting the Latin dance together with fitness, I just did it.”

Billini claims that she had to learn to move her hips. “Hip movement is the basis of Zumba,” Billini said. “Latin dancing is a core workout. For that reason you can see that Latin girls have a tiny waist because they use their abs and glutes a lot.

“This is not Miami. This is Colorado and I have to teach basic steps. People shouldn’t be afraid about the moves. I want people to have fun and workout. I don’t want anyone to get lost. I want them to enjoy. Fun is the priority.”

Zumba is just one of hundreds of aerobic workouts that has enthralled fitness enthusiasts over the years.

The word, “aerobic” which technically means “living only in the presence of oxygen,” became part of our lexicon when, in 1968, Dr. Kenneth Cooper published his book “Aerobics,” to describe the fitness programs he had created for the U.S. Air Force and the scientific guidelines for increasing endurance through activities such as running, walking, swimming and cycling.

Then a woman named Jacki Sorensen added music to her workouts to create “aerobic dancing.” That was followed by “Aerobicise,”in the late ’70s, a program, that People Magazine called “the sexiest show on television,” because of prolonged, suggestive camera shots of the dancers’ bodies.

However, it was actress Jane Fonda who not only brought high-impact aerobics to the forefront, but set the standard for fashionable aerobic wear with her ballet-inspired colorful leotards, matching headbands and leg warmers.

These days, fitness clubs world-wide offer dance classes with names like “Cardio Fusion,” described as a blend of “hip-hop dance and cardio-funk,” or “Thrash,” a “rhythmic dance class on the pulse of tribal beats, inspiring the body to move wildly to hot ethnic dance.”

Then, there’s “Zumba Nation,” as one club has named the class, “a non-stop dance class with Hindi, Arabic, African and Latin beats,” that includes “body sculpting and interval training.”

And what could possibly be next? Well, there’s not really talk of a new dance so far, however, there have been reports of leg warmers showing up in some gyms ” with thongs to match.

Hopefully, that’s just a rumor.

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