Zumba! for health of school and self
- Published: December 25, 2014
Losing weight and helping others are two common New Year’s resolutions. Area residents can get a head start on a healthy, generous 2015 by coming to a two-hour Zumba class for a good cause.
This year’s New Year Zumbathon, which benefits Project-Based Learning at Mills Lawn Elementary School, is 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Jan. 3, in the Mills Lawn gym. Admission is $10, and 100 percent of the proceeds goes to teachers who need materials for student projects at the school. Kids are free.
Zumba is a fast-paced aerobic routine that incorporates dance moves from salsa, merengue, African dance, belly dancing and more, set to such international music as reggaeton, Baliwood and hip-hop. Zumba doesn’t require any prior experience, its enthusiasts say. The choreography is easy to follow, while remaining challenging enough for fitness buffs.
At the semiannual Zumbathon, local Zumba instructors Melissa Van Zant and Corrie Cain will lead participants in an exercise that feels more like a dance party. As Van Zant says, Zumba “tricks you into exercising.”
“At the end of a class, you’re drenched in sweat and you didn’t even realize how hard you were working,” Van Zant said.
Van Zant brought Zumba to the village four years ago and her 6 p.m. Tuesday practices at the John Bryan Community Center have remained popular, drawing an average of 50 participants each week. In fact, she has seen people lose dramatic amounts of weight as they’ve changed their lives, while the local Zumba community has grown strong.
“There’s a real sense of community with the friendships that have formed,” Van Zant said, adding “People hold each other accountable,” which helps them achieve their fitness and life goals.
Van Zant herself, who is the Village finance director, charges $2 per class, enough to cover her costs for music rights, rent, choreography and insurance. The longtime fitness instructor just wants to help people afford to stay fit, she said.
“I’ve got a pretty good day job so I’m not doing it to get rich,” Van Zant said. “I want to make it affordable for people. I want them to come, and I want them to be well.”
Van Zant urged that Zumba is for everyone (three generations in one family attend her class) and that moves can be modified to be low impact so that those with little experience, or limitations, can participate. Van Zant’s approach is more “fitness than dance” and integrates squats, lunges and other techniques more than fancy footwork that can frustrate newcomers, she added. Though it’s accessible to all, Zumba can also be a better workout than running on a treadmill or other approaches, Van Zant said.
“It has more benefits than other types of exercise because it’s not just forward movements,” Van Zant said. “It’s lateral movements, it’s the core, the upper body. I work everything.”
Zumbathon participants can expect a blend of pop songs and world music. (Van Zant, for example, has choreographed songs like Pitbull’s “Krazy” and Vanilla Ice’s “Ice, Ice Baby.”) They should bring water, a towel and, if no prior Zumba experience, the desire to try a type of fitness that’s also fun, Van Zant said. That’s a good New Year’s resolution itself, she said.