Dance, exercise, do the Zumba

If you are bored of your mundane gym workouts, add some fun to your fitness routine with Zumba. This popular form of dance aerobics was conceived in Columbia by fitness instructor Alberto Beto Perez, in the 1990s.

Launched in 2001 in Miami, Florida, by Zumba Fitness — the company conceptualised the dance form, of which Beto is also a partner. The fitness routine that has spread across 125 countries, has collaborated with Talwalkars Fitness centres to bring the dance-exercise form to India. Jeffrey Perlman, chief marketing officer, Zumba Fitness, says, “Zumba’s not an exercise routine, it’s a lifestyle philosophy. It is an exotic cultural experience that includes dance steps and music from all over the world.” Interestingly, the word Zumba was derived from Rumba, a Cuban dance form. “We wanted to play on the word Rumba. So, we named it Zumba as it sounded catchy,” explains Perlman.

How it works
“There is warm-up in the beginning, and at the end, there is a cool-down. The idea is to raise your heartbeat and then cool it, and then raise it again. In an hour, up to 1,000 calories get burnt. But, more importantly, people are extremely happy by the end of it,” says Perlman. For those wanting to become instructors, there are separate instructor programmes. And, Perlman says there are no prerequisites to being an instructor. When asked if any special diets need to be followed for Zumba lessons, Perlman says, “I am against diets. Quick-fix diets prey on impulse buy, which isn’t right. We need to always set long-term goals.” When asked to describe Zumba in one line, he says, “Lose yourself in music, find yourself in shape.”

Music is an integral component of Zumba and Indian beats are a prominent part of the routine. “We use a lot of Bollywood and bhangra beats to compile the music for training. The music that we use can be called world music. Many celebs such as pop stars Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez, actor Emma Watson and American First Lady Michelle Obama take Zumba lessons,” Perlman reveals.  Interestingly, American filmmaker of Indian origin, M Night Shyamalan’s wife, Bhawna, did a Zumba routine with Indian beats in the US. At home, actor Neha Dhupia has been vocal about her love for the exercise form. Many artists including rapper Pitbull have performed at Zumba fitness concerts. The most popular Indian remixes that are used include DJ Punjabi’s Beware Of The Boys and a Zumba original titled Bangalore Dreaming. 

The choreography varies with music. “We keep the choreography simple, so that participants don’t get too involved in getting the intricate steps right, and in the process, lose out on fun,” says Perlman. Is the choreography age-specific? “It’s such that anyone and everyone can do it. Once, I had a lady, her mother, and her grandmother taking the same class,” he informs.

India story
“Fitness penetration is low in India. But, dance penetration is high. I think Zumba will bridge that. It will be a blend of these two and perhaps be more enjoyed by people here,” feels Perlman. Have they trained instructors in India? “Yes, we have around 50 officially licensed instructors at the moment. The classes will last an hour and there will be around three to four classes a week,” says Harsha Bhatkal, director Talwalkars, adding, “Music and dance is part of Indian DNA. We collaborated with Zumba fitness because it’s the perfect combination.” Apart from gyms, the collaborators also plan to introduce Zumba lessons in schools.


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