“Zumba”! The mere sound of the word conjures up the tremor of a primitive song, or a dance of lively gyrations that saturate that fitness factory on Salem Road where scores of people, mostly women, travel through their paces in the hopes of dropping a pound or more.
It might be called a dance, but more accurately, Zumba is a regimen of strenuous motion that, with a torrid, blaring musical accompaniment, rocks, Millions of people around the world are moving, making joyful sounds and searching for a healthy lifestyle by virtue of the dance.
Assuredly, the pounds fall off making everyone giddy with success, including the bosses at the Conway Regional Health and Fitness Center who support the activity wholeheartedly - this dance and fitness phenomenon.
The fitness center paints Zumba as a hypnotic Latin rhythm that creates a dynamic fitness effort that produces fairly amazing results.
Movement and drive - that’s Zumba, a dance craze that scores of participants seem to love, burning some 500 to 1,000 calories during an hour-long trip.
Tiffeny Crow, the senior program specialist at the Fitness Center, and other instructors, take their charges through workouts five days a week at various times, helping them experience the electrifying transit by means indigenous Latin music.
All this has come about by pure accident, if one considers the history of Zumba which is the story of Alberto “Beto” Perez who created the dance craze when one fateful day in his native Cali, Columbia, he darted off to teach an aerobics class and forgot his aerobics music.
Not to be undone, he improvised, using his own combination of music from tapes he carried in his backpack (the “salsa and merengue” music he grew up with”). Merengue is a fast dance with tricky moves that originated in the Dominican Republic in the 19th century.
Instinctively, Perez created a new kind of dance fitness, one that focused on letting the music move a dancer instead of the dancer counting the steps over the music. People gravitated toward the new sounds - they loved it - and a revolutionary new fitness concept was born - the “Zumba Fitness Party.”
Today the idea of “moving the world to a new beat” seems to be the fashion -an exhilarating, effective, easy- to-follow, Latin inspired calorie-burning fitness party that is moving millions of people toward joy and health.
To say the Zumba dance is addictive begs the question. It has become that and infinitely more since its inception in 2001, It has grown to become the world’s largest - and most successful- dance fitness program, with more than 12 million or more people of all sizes, shapes and ages, taking weekly Zumba classes in over 110,000 locations across 125 countries.
If you are new to Zumba, a word of caution: This is the most physically exhausting event of them all, Your instructor will encourage you to perform certain actions - probably unheard of actions - that your body will resist. You will bend in places you’ve never bent before. But you persevere. Remember the big picture: get fit, lose weight.
The instructor will exhort, almost beg you to stay with the others even if you hate everyone in sight. Your body will ache, but somehow you will be caught up by the excitement even if the Latin music and the fancy footwork are beyond your ken.
Tiffeny Crow and other instructors cajole and set the pace seeming impervious to the demands Zumba present.
Crow’s initiation with Zumba and consequent certification as a group exercise instructor in the dance, followed a primer in Hot Springs a few years ago. She notes that on her return to Conway “after falling in love with Zumba,” she began classes in the high-energy dance at the Conway Health and Fitness Center. At each dance class some 40 to 100 people show up willing to be inoculated with the intense “frolic” of Zumba.
Crow has been a fitness guru for seven years in Conway, and a group exercise teacher for some 17 years after graduating from Ouachita University in Arkadelphia.
“I took a year’s sabbatical while in college to travel around the world with the group called ‘Up With People,’ dancing and singing everywhere,” she revealed. “I was a dance intern, and after I returned home, I knew that’s what I wanted to do - dance. I returned to Ouachita and began teaching dance classes. I memorized fitness routines and moved on to become certified in fitness dance and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
For Crow, her life is a happy melding of family and dance. She is the mother of three - 13, 10 and 7, and married to Zac Crow who is a physical therapist at the Fitness Center.
Healthy living is Crow’s mantra. She lives it; she writes about it as she did composing an essay on the subject for the book “Full Bloom Cultivating Success”.
Crow was the 1990 Arkansas Junior Miss and the fitness and spirit winner at the organization’s national competition in Mobile, Alabama.
During her time with “Up With People” she was named performer of the year. She is credited with helping lead the fitness segment for children during Governor Huckabee’s “Fit for Life” campaign at the State Capitol.
“For healthy living, a daily exercise of some sort is mandatory, “she writes. “You need to include aerobic activity and weight training throughout the week. They both produce fabulous benefits.”
The Zumba experience at the center is choreographed by Amy Routt, group exercise director. Marulys Navarro and Monique St. Piere are other Zumba instructors.