Zuri Berry: ‘Ditch the workout, join the party’ | TheUnion.com
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Zuri Berry: ‘Ditch the workout, join the party’

I spun, I rolled, and I shook my hips with the best of them.

I looked to my right, and the older women – probably in their 50s – showed modest smirks.

They probably thought it was funny: a young black guy trying desperately to keep up with the latest exercise craze and not embarrass himself all the while.



Truth is, they were happy to have me.

It’s not often I walk myself through my own personal embarrassments and feel good about it. So Tuesday was a bit different.




I took up an offer from Courthouse Athletic Club’s Nadja Young, venturing to the Grass Valley gym to show off my lack of prowess in Zumba dancing.

Zumba is the brainchild of fitness trainer “Beto” Perez, a Colombian native. He began teaching and training Zumba in the 1990s, moving it to the U.S. in ’99. The heavy Latin roots swept over Florida and the strength of Zumba’s DVDs made the business a force as it became popular.

Participants dance out to tunes of merengue, salsa, samba, reggaeton and dance hall hits while performing aerobic moves for a cross breed of party and workout.

The movement even has an official catch phrase: “Ditch the work out, join the party.”

In short, it’s like Jazzercise, but cooler, younger and spicier.

In September, Young, a registered Zumba instructor, as well as Jennifer Rua brought the hit workout to Courthouse Athletic Club where they teach five classes a week and are adding a sixth in April because of its gaining popularity.

Rua had been renting out the gym at Union Hill School, teaching Zumba before making the leap.

The two women – with the gym’s group fitness director Kirstin Koch, along with Geri Campbell – have energized a local fan base of its own, with people flocking for more Zumba and their instructed classes.

I, for one, am not normally down for the flavor of the month, but I rolled the dice on this one. It was an opportunity for me to think outside the box.

Problem is, I’ve got two left feet and one of them just so happens to be pigeon-toed.

Yeah, the truth is out. A black man can’t dance and – gulp – white people were working their groove thangs better than me.

I make no apologies.

(Actually, sorry honey. We can still go clubbing.)

But the sweet part is I held my own in what is possibly the easiest way to get on the dance floor and back into the gym in recent history.

People are all over Zumba because it isn’t just a workout, it’s easy fun.

“It’s all about having fun,” Rua said. “You don’t have to be coordinated. When you don’t understand, you can just throw you’re own steps in there. That’s what most people do. Just throw your inhibition out at the door.”

It’s not built in the same fashion most dance classes are, with step-by-step guides on how to perform the moves. The whole purpose, seemingly, is to get the participants moving, and therefore exercising.

“I think it’s a fun workout,” Rua said. “Time flies as far as I’m concerned. And it’s a party-like environment. People get in here and they feel free to hoot and holler.”

The attraction is easy to tell. If a guy like me, two left feet and all, can hold his own, then there’s room for more. The music is hot and the aerobic aspect works the core in addition to cardio work. The demographics vary as well, with folks in the elderly gentlemen class to the senior high school class at Nevada Union.

“And where else do people get to dance?,” Koch asked incredulously. “Once you get older, where else do you get to dance freely besides when you’re vacuuming in the house? So I like that you actually get to dance. It’s fun music and we’re fun people.”

Said Young: “Anything Latin is really hot now. If you can learn even basic salsa steps or basic … any of those dances, you’re hip, you’re fun.”

The emphasis is on having a good time and letting loose.

“It’s a way for people to get cardio workout without having to run,” Koch said. “A lot people don’t want anything to do with (weights) upstairs. They come here just for Zumba so they can get in their cardio workout so they’re working on their heart health, burning calories (and) sweating. A lot of them have added 1-pound weights so they’re able to get an upper body workout as well. So they’re kind of getting they’re one-stop trip to the gym and they’re improving their health. You can’t ask for anything better than that.”

So I let loose, shook my groove thang and even learned a new two-step for the club. I got a backpack full of skills to break out in my next dance off. (Just kidding).

Now, all I need is a right foot.


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