Part aerobics class, part dance party, Zumba classes give Jazzercise a 21st -century update as participants shake and shimmy to world music — simultaneously increasing their heart rates and working abs, hips and thighs.
Zumba was created in 2005 when Colombian aerobics instructor Beto Perez forgot his music for class one day and improvised a routine using salsa CDs he had in his backpack. Today, Zumba is marketed as an upbeat, Latin-inspired dance class that allows participants to burn calories without watching the clock.
"First of all, it's an emotional relief," says Tatyana Galovkina Parker, who teaches a weekly Zumba class at the Jewish Community Center Uptown (5342 St. Charles Ave., 897-0143; www.nojcc.org). "It's also an energy booster."
Parker says she has seen Zumba's great effects on her students' mind, body and spirit. Zumba classes involve hip gyrations that exercise abdominal muscles, as well as footwork that works hips and thighs. Parker believes Zumba builds confidence along with muscle tone, because students learn dance moves to show off when they go out on the town.
Parker, who trained as a ballet dancer in Russia and later toured as a Russian folk and ballroom dancer, enjoys creative flexibility when leading Zumba classes. She incorporates ballet and ballroom moves into routines, sometimes adding a twirl or sashay to a cha-cha or merengue step. She encourages students to learn the moves at their own pace and "just have fun." Class begins with the following warm-up designed to ease everyone into the steps. Like any dance, each move is performed in time with music.
- Stretching is important before any vigorous exercise. Here, Parker demonstrates a hamstring stretch. With feet spread greater than shoulder-width apart, bend knees. Resting hands on your thighs, shift so that all your weight is on the right leg. Straighten your left leg and point toes up. Repeat with weight on the left leg. You can adjust the stretch by bending the supporting leg more or less.
- Standing with feet close together and abs engaged, raise your right knee waist-high. Turning from the waist, bring your left elbow just above your right knee. Return to the starting position. Repeat, switching sides. To get your heart pumping, try alternating legs quickly, but make sure to keep your abs engaged, your back straight and to turn from the waist to avoid putting strain on your back.
- With feet spread a little more than shoulder-width apart and abs engaged, push your hips back and swing to the left, bending your left knee. From there, swing hips to the right, bending the right knee. Once you get your hips going, you can get in the swing of Zumba.