Class is attracting fans at the JCC

BY MIKE SHERWIN, ASSISTANT EDITOR

It’s a quarter past 9 a.m. on Friday at the JCC, and Latin dance music is wafting out into the hallway from the aerobics room. Inside, about 20 women and a smattering of men are fusing tango, meringue, cumbia and salsa moves, along with moves you might see on nightclub dancefloors.

This is Zumba, what fitness instructor Cynthia Rush says is “70 percent Latin, and 30 percent anything goes.”

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So, mixed in with the Latin dance music, the class moves to an eclectic mix of international music, hip hop — and even Broadway musicals. The theme that ties them all together, is that all are upbeat, and highly danceable tunes.

“It’s one of the hottest workouts in terms of popularity and innovation…Zumba is a Latin dance-based fitness class, with incredible music and easy steps,” Rush said. “That combination creates a class that is not only effective, but really, really fun…You do not need to know any dance steps, you just show up and follow the teacher.”

Generally, what everybody tells me, is ‘Wow. The hour just flew by,'” she said.

The hour-long class is geared toward a general fitness audience, Rush said. At the JCC class, participants from their 20s to their 80s took cues from Rush in navigating through different dance beats and songs with faster or slower tempos.

The Zumba workout intentionally cycles through uptempo tunes with faster steps and then smoother, slower cool-down songs, Rush said.

“That keeps the class very interesting because it’s very different from a traditional aerobics class with a steady beat, steady state. With Zumba, you have a lot of variety,” she said.

Currently, the JCC offers three Zumba classes: at the JCC’s Carlyn H. Wohl Building there is one class on Mondays at 5:30 p.m. and another is at 9:15 a.m. on Fridays; at the JCC’s Fox Building in Chesterfield on Fridays at 8:30 a.m. In February, a Zumba Gold class, geared toward older adults, will be offered through the Naturally Occurring Retirement Community (NORC).

Right from when they started to offer Zumba at the JCC this summer, Rush said, the classes were a hit. “They have been really, really popular,” she said. “Off the bat, we’ve had really packed classes.”

Zumba has become a fitness phenomenon in the United States, particularly in the past several years. Zumba was founded by Beto Perez, a celebrity fitness instructor, who brought the aerobic workout style to the United States in 1999.

Now Zumba has more than 5,000 instructors in 30 countries.

“Now is a really great time to check out the J because so many clubs in the area want Zumba and there aren’t that many instructors. So the J is really lucky to have three nationally certified Zumba instructors,” Rush said.

The J has been at the forefront of offering innovative fitness programs, like Zumba, Turbo Kick and Yoga Fusion, Rush said.

Rush said she recognized the potential Zumba held right away. “I loved Latin music and I had just taken some regular salsa classes. At one of the clubs where I teach, some of the Zumba educational specialists came in town and gave master classes,” she said.

“I absolutely fell in love with it. I knew that I would love to teach it and I knew the members would love it. The minute I tried it, I got really excited and just started working on the choreography and planning my classes. I knew I would love to bring this to the J,” Rush said.

That excitement has clearly carried over into those taking Rush’s class.

“You don’t feel like you’re exercising,” said Renee Dobkin, one of the people attending Rush’s Friday morning class at the JCC. “You just feel like you’re dancing and having fun,” she said.

A few songs that have been crowd pleasers, according to Rush, are Techno Cumbia, which “combines cumbia, a traditional dance step from Columbia, with a hip hop reggaeton beat. It has got a lot of hip action. That’s one song that people request all over.”

Another favorite is Shakira’s Hips Don’t Lie, which has a “belly dance feel,” Rush says, and You Can’t Stop the Beat from the Broadway musical Hairspray.

Rush, who is a licensed clinical social worker, in addition to teaching fitness courses, said she has seen aerobics trends come and go. However, Zumba will have staying power, she predicts.

“There’s no equipment involved, like some fitness trends that have come and gone, and people simply love it,” she said.

“The songs are fun and inspire you to dance,” she said. “I think Zumba is going to be a long-lasting way to make fitness fun again.”

For more information about Zumba classes at the JCC, contact Brooke DeCosty at 314-442-3210 about programs at the Creve Coeur campus, or Laura Perez at 314-442-3453 about programs at JCC’s Chesterfield location.

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