Dancing Up a Storm

Rebecca White Body, photos by Andrea Paulseth

Z.VIDA's Zumba Master Class from January.
Z.VIDA's Zumba Master Class from January.

Rebecca White Body took a chance and tried Zumba – a dance aerobic class – for the first time and writes here about her experience as a Zumba newbie.

Dance like nobody’s watching. This statement is cutesy, trite, and meant to be a metaphor. But darn it, I’m taking it literally, and that’s why I’ve spent almost every Saturday morning for the last two months at Zumba class. (Zumba, in case you’re wondering, is “a Latin-inspired dance-fitness class” according to the Zumba Fitness Instructor Training Manual.) Am I a good dancer? No. Do I feel like a fool? Yes. Do I regret joining the class? Absolutely not. Dancing is so far outside my comfort zone that attempting it has opened a whole new world to me. I can, for the first time in my life, say things like, “Guess what?! I shimmied today!” with pure joy and no irony whatsoever.  

My inhibitions were not always so lacking, though. I’d heard of Zumba before, and vaguely thought that I should try it out, but I always ended up putting it off for another time. That time finally arrived when my friend Cindy Peterson, along with her friend and co-worker, Monika Waloway, founded Z.Vida Fitness in Eau Claire. I wanted to get in shape; I wanted to try something new; I had complete faith in Cindy’s kindness. So I went.

I’d been doing yoga for years in the privacy of my own home, but this was the first workout that made me attain a healthy level of heart-pounding sweatiness. I thus became a Zumba devotee. 

I arrived at the first class a bit nervous, not knowing what to expect, fearing that I’d be singled out and exposed for the dancing incompetent that I am. I shouldn’t have fretted, though—as soon as I came in, I was dancing away with the others. Cindy and Monika led the class through the moves on each song, and I was so involved in keeping up that I didn’t have time to feel self-conscious. By the end of class, I was red as a beet but full of enthusiasm. I’d been doing yoga for years in the privacy of my own home, but this was the first workout that made me attain a healthy level of heart-pounding sweatiness. I thus became a
Zumba devotee.  

Clearly, I am not alone in my enthusiasm. Since its invention by Beto Perez in the ‘90s, more than a million people have taken classes taught by more than 10,000 trained instructors. Cindy and Monika never expected they would someday join the ranks of those instructors, but their destinies changed when rumors began to circulate about the closing of their favorite studio. They thought about living a Zumba-free life and decided such an empty existence was simply not acceptable. Encouraged by their friends and family, they took the plunge and went through training to become licensed Zumba instructors.

Monika was the first to be trained and actually began teaching at their favorite studio before it closed. She was also hired at two local gyms. Cindy quickly followed suit and arranged to offer classes at her local church. She also began searching for a studio where she and Monika could get together and offer Zumba as a team. Divine intervention led them to a space at the Danz Kraze Studio in Banbury Place, and with training covered, a location secured, and experience and motivation fueling them, Cindy and Monika formed Z.Vida Fitness. The pair focused primarily on getting the word out through online event calendars, social media, and self-created business cards and posters. Word of mouth has also been a powerful ally because, as Cindy points out, “Zumba honestly sells itself!”

Neither woman is getting rich off teaching Zumba, but both agree that their efforts are worthwhile. They cite their students’ smiling faces as one of the biggest rewards, but, Monika adds, it doesn’t hurt that they “get paid to work out!” 

Z.Vida Fitness welcomes anyone who’s interested in trying out a class. Cindy advises first-timers to wear comfortable clothes with flat-soled shoes and to arrive secure in the knowledge that all moves can be modified to accommodate their experience and fitness levels. Monika also emphasizes that students who aren’t born dancers shouldn’t get frustrated if they don’t perform a move perfectly right away. “The more you practice, the better you become, and the more fun you’ll have!”

She’s not kidding about that. I won’t be going pro in, oh, the next thousand years or so, but I’ve made progress. Every time I end a song with my feet in the right place, I experience a little thrill of accomplishment. I’m also losing weight and getting stronger.  When I think about going to my first class, Monika’s words about hers capture my feelings exactly: “I’m so glad I did!”