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Progress in fitness, diversity

Latin-based Zumba grows in popularity around Tri-State area

Latin-based Zumba grows in popularity around Tri-State area

January 14, 2008|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

Zumba, a hybrid of aerobics and Latin dance, is raising heart rates and cultural awareness at an aerobics class near you.

Zumba was introduced to the U.S. in the late '90s by Colombian fitness trainer Beto Perez and is now marketed as Zumba Fitness.

Classes are popping up all over the Tri-State, with offerings at YMCAs in Hagerstown and Chambersburg, Pa., and at South Pointe Fitness Club, west of Funkstown. Wilson College will start Zumba classes on Jan. 28.

Local fitness trainers and participants say it's a sign of progress, that the community is becoming more diverse.

"It's kind of a relief," says Sonia Reyes, a native of Colombia, who is fitness director at the YMCA of Hagerstown. "All the stuff I've been training for, I'm always the only Latina one. When I became a Zumba instructor, it was like, OK, this is my thing."

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Zumba combines elements of salsa, merengue, cumbia, bachata, reggaeton and hip-hop. While there are some elements of strength training, it's intended to function as a group dance aerobics class.

Reyes says she's seen some of the class participants - people who didn't know much about Latin dance or music before Zumba - test their skills outside of class when a downtown night club hosted a salsa night.

"I guess they were doing their homework," Reyes says.

Zumba's popularity might be partly driven by the new-found interest in dance, thanks to a recent preponderance of dance-themed reality shows, and the broader need for fitness clubs to offer members new options, says Sharee O'Haver, membership director for the Hagerstown Y.

"You're always looking for a hook, that thing that people want to do, and this seems to be the perfect time to do it," O'Haver says.

Niki Perini, artistic director of Authentic Community Theatre, attends the Hagerstown Y's Zumba class. She heard about the class after friends recommended it to her.

"It makes you feel like you're one with the music, so you really feel the beat, the rhythm from your toes out to your hair," Perini says.

The timing of Zumba's arrival also syncs with the early January gym rush, says Heather O'Neill, owner of South Pointe Fitness Club.

"We thought (Zumba) would be fun for the people starting their New Year's resolutions," O'Neill says.

Starlene Hamilton, 45, of Williamsport, attends Zumba class at South Pointe.

"I think it's wonderful because it brings cultural diversity to our area," Hamilton says.

Mikkicia Bowers, 37, of Boonsboro, works out five days a week at South Pointe and has been a regular attendee of group workout classes for the past few years.

"They don't let you get bored," Bowers says. "It's definitely come a long way since Jane Fonda and aerobics."

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