by Christine Nappi, Staff Writer
Zumba is a style of aerobic exercise focused around dancing to Latin American music, and it’s here at Manhattan College. Zumba classes are held Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30 to 10:30 p.m. and on Wednesdays from 12-1 p.m. in Alumni Hall, room 202. The classes are open to all students, and don’t require any prior experience in dance.
“It’s a unique way of exercise,” Zumba instructor Natalia Alvarez said. “Some people don’t like going to the gym and they don’t consider dance a cardio. I like teaching Zumba because they sometimes underestimate dance as a workout.”
Classes consist of instructors displaying a dance that follows the beat of a song, while students mimic their moves to achieve a workout. The dances focus on working parts of the entire body, and certain ones focus on areas such as abs, legs and arms. The dance moves are designed so that any student can participate, regardless if they have danced before or not. As instructors describe, the Zumba choreography is repetitive so students can easily participate.
“If there’s a complicated move or something that’s very specific, like we want you to work your abs instead of your legs, we’ll show you before,” instructor Christina Raguso said. “But then you catch on because it’s very repetitive.”
As instructors describe, newcomers to Zumba shouldn’t feel intimidated if they can’t keep up with the dance moves. Students are encouraged to partake in classes because the goal of Zumba is to give students a place where they can have fun while also working out.
“I wanted to find a way to be able to work out by having fun,” Zumba student Johanna Gavigan said. “Going to the gym can sometimes be kind of dull, Zumba is more fun and you get your workout and you have fun with your friends.”
According to Gavigan, instructors of the class select music specifically for Zumba, and also incorporate popular songs on the radio to create a lively atmosphere for the students. They also integrate new dance moves to songs along with the original ones that have been used since the class was first introduced in 2014. In addition to teaching, the instructors are there to support students and to inspire them to express and enjoy themselves through dance, song or any way that suits them.
“We have fun with it,” Raguso said. “Instead of squatting you can just sing the songs and no one cares if you’re screaming, it’s just a good time.”
Although the Zumba dances are designed to work out specific areas of your body, instructor Alexis Brown notes that students can be creative with the class and interpret dance moves in their own way.
“No one said you have to do everything exactly the way we do,” Brown said. “Put your own style into it, if anything I appreciate people that do their own thing.”
While students have fun with the class, another main focus is to exercise one’s body and accomplish a work out. As Raguso describes, as long as students are sweating and keep their body moving, they can achieve that goal. In addition, Alvarez says being surrounded by other people can help achieve this goal because everyone encourages each other to work hard.
“It brings people together,” Alvarez said. “You’re not alone, you get motivation by seeing other people doing it.”
Alvarez also states that students can burn a great deal of calories following the dance moves, and recalls one student burning up to 700 calories in a class. Although students are encouraged to get an adequate workout, they are reminded to dance and participate to the best of their ability.
“We start every class by saying this is not a dance battle,” Brown said. “Do your best, work hard and you’ll be fine.”
Another purpose of Zumba, as Alvarez describes, is to educate and bring attention to the origins of the dance style. Zumba has the ability to open students eyes to another culture.
“Zumba does combine a lot of African beats and Latino beats so there is a cultural message behind Zumba,” Alvarez said.
Instructors and students say Zumba has become a community of its own. Those who participate are excited to see each other each class, and look forward to having fun with their friends while working out. Instructors also encourage students to come to the classes so they can make new friends and belong to a group that supports each other.
“Besides a fun way to work out with your friends, it’s also a place to meet new people,” instructor Christopher Santiago said.
Despite the misconception that many think Zumba is a “girly” class as Alvarez describes, the class is not specific to any gender and welcomes all students.
“It’s all about the workout [and] it doesn’t have a gender, it’s open to whatever gender identity you identify with. It’s just a fun way to get your cardio on and that’s all you need to see it as,” Alvarez said. “Even the ‘girly’ dances, they’re fun for the guys. I see them having fun so they shouldn’t underestimate the class because its not their style.”
No sign up is necessary to attend Zumba classes, and students can bring along their friends and anyone interested in participating. Instructors have chosen to host the classes at the designated times in order to ensure that students have time in their schedule to work out. Santiago claims that the time of the classes shouldn’t discourage participation.
“When you have so many things to do, it’s just a good time later in the day,” Santiago said. “We’re still awake, you can get a workout in. [It’s] an easy way to work out and a fun way to do cardio.”
Instructors hope that more students begin to attend classes because Zumba gives students a way in which they can effectively workout in an enjoyable manner.
“It’s a lot of fun, you can hang out with your friends while you’re doing it, it’s something to laugh about,” Gavigan said. “You can interact and have fun together.”