What to do Tonight: Zumba in the street at the Turtle Creek VFD fair
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Zumba is described as being a fun, low-impact workout. But tonight, in the street outside the Turtle Creek Volunteer Fire Department, the impact will be pretty strong.
That's because it's the fifth annual Zumba Fitness in the Street, benefiting the Turtle Creek VFD.
More than 100 people are expected to take part in the fundraiser adjoining the department's annual fair on Monroeville Avenue.
Most of the time, when you think of a fair, you think of booths and rides and games and cotton candy and caramel apples.
Now they've added sweat to the equation. Zumba sweat.
"Zumba is aerobic-dance fitness, largely based on Latin music," said Turtle Creek resident Connie Tinsley, who is the licensed instructor in charge. "But since its inception, Zumba has gone international and has brought in worldwide rhythms."
With a name like Zumba, you figure this thing must have been around since the drum was invented. But you'd be wrong.
A Colombian choreographer by the name of Alberto "Beto" Perez created the craze during the 1990s. It's a pretty straightforward recipe: Take all sorts of Latin-based dance music, mix in some martial arts and belly dancing. Sprinkle in some squats and do anything but let it sit.
With the help of DVDs and celebrity endorsements, Zumba has caught on with some 12 million people in classes all around the world.
"When I first started in 2006, there were 26 individuals training around here," Ms. Tinsley said. "Now, in a 25-mile radius of Pittsburgh, I think we have 450-some instructors. It has just exploded in this area.
"Instructors are taught to lead the class like Simon Says. You watch the instructor and imitate the movement. Once you learn the basic moves and rhythms, it's very easy to follow. Somehow, someway, this activity connects with people to become one of the leading exercise trends in the world. People truly enjoy it."
A bunch of people going through motions in tune with an instructor who has one of those beaming smiles that communicate just how much fun you're supposed to be having.
"It's dance with a lot of fitness fused into the movement," Ms. Tinsley said. "It's something that anyone can take at all fitness levels. You could walk into a Zumba class and enjoy that class with a really nice hourlong workout.
"No dance experience is required. Just the love of music and the willingness to allow yourself to enjoy the movements to the best of your body's ability."
Participants wear loose-fitting workout clothes. Oh, and comfortable fitness shoes. You have to have shoes that facilitate movement.
The best part, it seems, is the music. All Latin and booty-bumping.
"Beto Perez was Latin and he brought his culture," Ms. Tinsley said. "Since that time it has evolved and they're bringing in music from other cultures. African, Indian, and now they've gotten into pop."
She didn't mention polka music, but I'm sure that was just an oversight.
Ms. Tinsley is regarded as a passionate but fun teacher. As opposed to some workout instructors who come across like drill sergeants.
"I teach in a non-intimidating way," she said. "My students are made to feel welcome and encouraged just to have a good time.
"With a lot of licensed fitness programs, you have to follow their choreographed material exactly and they're very strict. In Zumba, the instructors are allowed to bring their own personalities and flavor into the classes and design them the way they see fit for the population they're teaching to. So that's really nice. It's a lot more work for the instructor, but it gives you the freedom of customizing your class to your demographic.
"There really is a Zumba class for everyone."
OK, wait a second. I knew life was good, but I had no idea that there was more than one kind of Zumba!
"Oh yes, there's regular Zumba, and there's Zumba Gold for the active, older adult," Ms. Tinsley said. "They have Zumba Toning, which is Zumba done with light hand-held weights. And there's Zumbatomic for children. I teach that also.
"They also have Aqua Zumba that you do in a pool. And now they've come out with a program called Sentao which is done with a chair."
All these Zumbas -- I'm gonna need a chair.
"It's so fun, an hour goes by and you don't even realize you've worked out and you're dripping wet with sweat and you've burned tons of calories," Ms. Tinsley said.
If you register at zumbainthestreets.com, the cost is $20 and you get a Zumba T-shirt. Otherwise, just stop on by and contribute to the fire department.
The sweating starts at 7 p.m. Once you're finished, you can treat yourself to a candy apple.
First Published June 15, 2012 4:06 pm