After watching William Levy shake his hips for a season Top 3 finish on Dancing With the Stars last week, the call of Zumba became irresistible.
Sweat Equity was going to have its own Dancing With the Stars moment and conquer the salsa, merengue, tango, Brazilian samba and belly dance — or at the very least do them as well as the first eliminated contestant, Martina Navratilova.
So with visions of 10s from Len dancing in our head we hit Pinecrest Fitness’ popular Zumba class.
Levy had dance pro Cheryl Burke guiding his steps. Pinecrest Fitness has Zumba Education Specialist Erick Santana.
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We were on equal footing.
Santana choreographs his 60-minute class to accommodate all levels and ages using a process he calls the “progress of building.” He will introduce a simple step, add another and then reinforce the two steps before adding a third and then a fourth. Repetition is built in at each level to help the class of about 20 master the moves.
“Our Zumba philosophy is no more than four steps and basically we exchange variations between exercise and dance,” Santana says. “Zumba has become a worldwide phenomenon because when you compare it to other fitness formats where people feel intimidated, it’s fun, it’s easy cardio, and people who are intimidated get turned on through Zumba and branch out.”
Jackie Sepe, for instance, teaches Pilates at Pinecrest Fitness but attends Santana’s musically rich Zumba class to work on her cardiovascular health. “It’s an amazing kind of cardio exercise. You don’t stop moving. It’s a big dance party,” Sepe, 28, laughs.
But as “easy” and party-hearty as Santana’s Zumba class is, it burns calories — 400 to 600 at the low impact level and 800 to 1,000 if you kick it up a notch into high impact.
Don’t worry about your knees or back. The wooden floor was designed by the same firm that crafted the DWTS floor in Los Angeles, and has five layers of suspension springs built into it to make the boards flexible and cushioning for both instructors, who have to use it daily and for students, Pinecrest Fitness owner Mike Estevez says.
“Fitness is not meant to be painful, it’s meant to be fun,” insists Santana who also incorporates reggaeton, Cumbia, Soca and flamenco into his routines.
Sometimes he’ll even call a student to the front of the class for a little dance-off.
“I really feel good about working out. I sweat a lot and feel better every time I wake up in the morning,” said Luis Lombardia, a 29-year-old technician from Sweetwater who moved to the head of the class during a recent morning session.
Not sure of your moves? They’ll come to you and when they don’t, friendly classmates like Carolina Gurland, 55, offer tips. “Forget your arms, but get the feet going. And merengue is a march. That’s all it is,” the Pinecrest mom says.
Best of all: no weekly eliminations. Zumba’s as gratifying as getting a perfect 10 from the TV judges.