By Ann Marina
For the Redoubt Reporter
Participants of the Soldotna Community Schools program had a chance to learn a leading-edge exercise routine coming all the way from Colombia to Alaska.
Zumba (ZOOM-bah) blends spicy Latin dance moves into a creative aerobic session.
“It gets people smiling, and their endorphins start flowing,” said Cannetta Lloyd, a Soldotna fitness instructor who leads the classes.
Hips gyrate, shoulders shimmy and feet hop and slide across the floor. Zumba includes calypso, salsa, merengue and other international tempos. Derived from Spanish words, Zumba means “move fast and have fun.”
A few years ago, Lloyd was introduced to the workout at a national fitness convention in Las Vegas.
“I was blown away,” she said. “The moves are fluid, and people sway with the music.”
For more than 12 years, Lloyd has offered a variety of dance-related classes on the central Kenai Peninsula.
“Zumba is a lot more interesting than doing 30 reps of something,” she said.
Lyndy Wackler, of Soldotna, took the Zumba class and was surprised by how engaging it is.
“It’s not so easy that you get bored of it. It’s high impact, but it’s so fun you don’t even realize what a workout it is,” she said. “It’s nice to kind of include your mind, too.”
She attended the last Zumba class held Dec. 16, but was able to step right in with the rest of the group.
“I think it’s neat because (Lloyd) shows all levels. She goes back and forth so you can see beginning, intermediate and advanced moves,” she said.
Zumba’s originator, Miami choreographer Alberto “Beto” Perez, brought the innovation to Florida from his native country of Colombia in 1999. It was actually by chance that he developed the workout.
In the mid-1990s, Perez led cardio classes in Colombia. One day he forgot to bring the music CDs for his aerobics group. He raced back to his car, grabbed a few favorite Latin recordings, and Zumba was born.
“My class members enjoyed that improvised session, and encouraged me to keep developing a workout set to Latin dance music,” Perez said in a recent e-mail interview.
Once it hit the U.S., Zumba’s popularity soared. Perez teamed up with Miami entrepreneurs Alberto Perlman and Alberto Aghion, creating a global company based on the Zumba fitness philosophy.
“They’ve channeled this energy into a business that benefits instructors, employees and consumers,” Perez said. “It’s a win-win-win.”
“I really want to acknowledge our instructors,” he added. “Their success is what makes Zumba grow.”
Ten thousand instructors are now certified to lead Zumba in the U.S., along with 5,000 in other countries. The Zumba DVD has sold over 3 million copies.
“It’s possible to burn a thousand calories in one session,” Perez said. “But people of any fitness level can enjoy Zumba. It’s OK if you miss a step — as long as you’re moving, you’re keeping fit.”
Zumba’s popularity arose as Latin dance started gaining a following on reality TV shows, like “Dancing with the Stars.”
Working with Kellogg’s to reach the Hispanic market in the United States and abroad, Zumba has been featured on more than 1.5 million boxes of Special K cereal. A Spanish-language infomercial was launched in more than 30 countries in 2004, resulting in a huge boost of DVD sales.
Zumba Fitness Company shares the fruits of its success through annual “Zumbathons.” In 2006, the first Zumbathon in Miami raised money for breast cancer research and treatments. The event drew nearly a thousand participants.
This year, Zumbathons were held in several cities to benefit agencies working to prevent domestic violence and assist victims of abuse.
While providing a cardio workout, Zumba shapes and strengthens the abdominal area.
“The movements sculpt your powerhouse of core stability — the abs,” Lloyd said.
“It works your glutes, inner and outer thighs, arms and toes,” she laughed. “No, really, it’s so much fun that you forget you’re working out.”
Lloyd will offer more classes in the new year. For information, contact Community Schools Director Carmen Triana at 262-3151, ext. 24, or e-mail email@example.com.
Freelance writer Ann Marina is a former resident of the central peninsula.