Even if you don’t know what Zumba is, you are bound to have heard this name somewhere!

Zumba is a fitness class that took the world by storm, and its popularity has been steadily on an increasing high. Throw a stone into a crowd, and it is likely that the person it hits may have tried Zumba at least once. (Don’t go throwing any stones though!)

You would definitely have heard of it, because many people who have tried Zumba love it!

First things first, what is Zumba?

[Photo of people having fun in a Zumba workout]
Zumba is for all ages, shapes, and sizes!
Image taken from Amore Fitness

WHAT IS ZUMBA

Aerobics is not a new concept. It has been around for years, and was highly popularized by Jane Fonda with her “no pain, no gain” motto. Aerobics was basically moving to music – the body movement is to increase the heartrate, and the music is to keep the pace and to make the session enjoyable.

Zumba is a new trend of doing aerobics, which uses dance movements to music (read my post on cardio dance). Trademarked under Zumba Fitness, LLC, only licenced instructors can teach Zumba.

Each class usually lasts about 60 minutes, although the duration can change depending on the instructor (30 minutes, 45 minutes, or even 2 hours). A 60-minute class would typically have about 10-12 songs. The idea is to mix various movements to come up with a class that gives participants a mix of cardio, muscle conditioning, balance and flexibility!

Each song has a fixed choreography released by the parent company, which the instructors have to learn, although they may be allowed to tweak it for their classes. New songs / choreography are released every 2-3 months to keep things fresh.

The reason that Zumba makes all instructors teach the same choreography is to keep the classes of the same standard. That way someone can go to any Zumba class taught by any instructor – literally anywhere even in the world – they would be able to get the same experience! It is akin to how you can walk to any McDonald’s in the world and you would get a burger and fries of the same taste and quality. With Zumba, you can attend any class in the world and you will be able to dance the same choreography and have the same kind of class experience.

One of the fitness routines featured on Zumba’s website

Zumba actually has many different components now, which include STRONG Nation, Aqua Zumba, Zumba Step, and more! These are different types of fitness classes based on High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), swimming pool aerobics, step classes, and others; all under the Zumba umbrella.

However, whenever one says “Zumba”, we would be referring to the original dance-style fitness class.

HISTORY OF ZUMBA

Zumba was invented purely by accident. In 1998, Alberto Pérez, an aerobics instructor, had forgotten to bring his regular music to an aerobics class. However, he had tapes of Latin dance music – namely salsa and merengue – and used that for his class. His students loved it, and Zumba was born!

When Zumba first started, it used mainly Latin dance music and Latin dance movements in fitness style, and was typically seen as a Latin dance-based fitness style. Zumba has evolved since then to use different music and different dance styles, including belly dance, Bollywood dance, and even hiphop.

[Beto reaching for a rainbow]
Alberto Perez, or Beto as he is fondly known, the founder of Zumba.
Image taken from betoperez.zumba.com

IS ZUMBA A DANCE?

Zumba is based on dance movements, but sorry to disappoint you folks. It is not a dance. Although some Zumba instructors / enthusiasts call themselves dancers, if Zumba is all they do, they aren’t technically dancers.

Actual Latin dancing requires much more technique and finesse, and becoming a Latin dancer can take years of practice.

Zumba on the other hand is purely for fitness, which means that the techniques used are only for increasing the heartrate and to make you sweat. You can technically just be “marching” and stepping to the choreography, and you will still fit right in the Zumba class.

Doing purely Zumba in sneakers doesn’t come anywhere close to even becoming a beginner in Latin dance. In fact, it’s almost an insult to claim to be a Latin dancer when the only thing someone does is Zumba.

Having said that though, that doesn’t mean someone can’t do one without the other. Many Zumba enthusiasts are also Latin dancers; many Latin dancers also do Zumba. In fact having a dance background enables them to do Zumba even more beautifully and gracefully.

[Photo of Zumba participants in a Latin-esque pose]
When Zumba first started, the routines were based on a lot of Latin dance movements.
Image taken from starmarkfitnessstudio.com

IS ZUMBA RIGHT FOR YOU?

Zumba claims that it is for everybody and every body.

In my personal opinion, it is loosely true… Zumba fitness classes are designed for people of all fitness levels, from beginners to advanced! Beginners are given easier options, while the fitter ones are given advanced options, all in the same choreography. It is a great way to include everyone in the same class!

I do know a few people who have tried and they didn’t like Zumba – but that was mainly because they found it difficult to follow the steps to music. Not everyone is able to keep musical count, and not everyone is able to follow choreography, no matter how simple. Some people may need to have personal training-style fitness where they take their time without music.

On the other hand, if you are part of the population that enjoy moving to music, then Zumba would be great for you! It is especially perfect for those who enjoy dancing but may find the tediousness of practice technique or executing the same steps over and over again (yes, that’s what can happen in a dance class) too challenging or even boring, when all you wanna do is just to MOVE and stay healthy!

[GIF of ladies in a Zumba class]
Because Zumba is a fitness class, moves tend to be repetitive and are easy to follow, unlike an actual dance class.
GIF converted from a video on “Zumba Class” YouTube channel

WHERE TO LEARN ZUMBA

Zumba is almost everywhere! If you’re in the city, there is probably a class that is within 1km from you!

The good thing about Zumba is that the licence is held by the instructors and not by the gyms or studios, so Zumba instructors are allowed to conduct classes virtually anywhere – even in an open park!

You can look for Zumba classes in your vicinity from Zumba’s official website here: https://www.zumba.com/en-US/pages/class

Screenshot from the Zumba website. I’ve blacked out the names of the studios and the available classes because… well, because you should go check them out yourself! For some reason my laptop thinks I’m in Georgetown, Penang. I’m really more than 300km away. But it’s okay, it makes it harder for the Internet to track where I really am.

Some Zumba instructors may not be listed in the website though. When I checked the website, I found the listings in my local area very limited, although I know for a fact that there are far more Zumba classes available.

In the current Covid-19 situation, many Zumba instructors are offering virtual livestream lessons as they may not be able to offer physical Zumba classes. Some areas may still offer physical Zumba classes that are subject to physical distancing and pandemic SOPs (standard operating procedures) such as maximum number of participants, temperature scanning, and even locations (some rules may allow only open-air classes), so be sure to check about your local rules and that the instructors are adhering to the SOPs.

[Zoom of Zumba class]
Virtual Zumba classes are very common now in this current pandemic.
Image taken from zumbawithjudy.com

Here are some suggestions on where to look for a Zumba class:

  1. Commercial gyms. If the commercial gym offers studio classes such as yoga, it is extremely likely that it offers Zumba as well. However entry to these classes usually require membership which you have to be pay monthly on a contract. These are usually for physical classes, although some do offer virtual classes now.
  2. Dance or fitness studios. These studios are usually open to many different types of classes, and most of these studios which offer Zumba. I know some studios which have more than one Zumba instructor offering classes there! Like the gyms, some of these studios offer virtual classes as well. You can pay just for the Zumba class, although the monthly or per class option depends on the studio.
  3. Zumba website. As mentioned earlier, run a quick search in your local vicinity for a physical class. The Zumba website also offers virtual classes worldwide – you can even learn Zumba from an instructor halfway around the globe! You have the option to pay per class. Check it out at https://www.zumba.dance/
  4. ClassPass. ClassPass is an app which hooks customers up to various studios and centres, with focus on beauty, health and fitness services. You will definitely be able to find physical or virtual Zumba classes in there. The catch is that ClassPass is a monthly subscription service. ClassPass is only available in certain locations though; there may be another similar app available in your location. Check it out at https://classpass.com/ (I will be writing more about ClassPass in an upcoming blogpost)
  5. Just ask around! If you live in a city or a town, it is very likely that there is a Zumba class run by an independent instructor that you can just join in. If you live in a condominium which has its own gym, mirrored studio or multipurpose hall for residents to use, it is possible that there is a Zumba instructor offering classes there. If your condo does not offer one or you don’t stay in a condo, you might be able to attend a Zumba class offered in a nearby condo. This can also be true of some townships which have their own clubhouses. You may also find Zumba classes available in an open-air public park!
  6. Virtual livestream sessions. If you are opting for virtual livestream sessions, the options are UNLIMITED! As with the Zumba website, you can even attend lessons by instructors in a different country. You don’t have to use the Zumba website – just run an online search on Google or Facebook, and you can easily find hundreds of Zumba instructors offering virtual livestream Zumba classes. The difficulty here would be determining which instructor to go for!
  7. YouTube sessions. If you want free options, you can always look for a Zumba class on YouTube. Options here are rather limited though; most videos are only of one song, which is a few minutes. You will also be able to find full Zumba sessions (30 – 60 minutes) available on YouTube. However, don’t expected the latest Zumba routines to be available as they are usually reserved for paying members only (via physical or livestream classes).

Expect to pay about RM15-RM30 per session for physical classes, and about RM8-RM15 per session for virtual livestream classes.

[Happy Zumba people]
For some people, Zumba is happiness!
Image taken from zlife.zumba.com

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