Dance into shape with Zumba, the exercise in disguise and a rage in Madurai now

Ah well! Since I always take a deep breath to button my jeans, I have been thinking of trying some exercises class. Of late, “zumba” has been on the lips of many friends. “It’s fun,” they endorse.

I want to be fit but I don’t like to dance so I choose to first do a bit of people watching at the Euforia danscool one evening. A perky dance master V.Gopinath and a mixed group of 10 women – school girls, college students, working mothers and housewives, ranging in age from 16 to 40 years troop in for the growing-in-popularity zumba session.

Everybody looks cheerful, dressed in comfortable clothes and shoes and a spring in their steps. The music system is switched on. To the groovy beats, the enthusiastic dancers plunge into the moves – slow to fast and faster -- following the cues from the trainer. Intermittent claps from Gopi master change the routine of the steps.

The initial round is simple hip-hop and looks easy. I notice everybody is still smiling when they move on to the cardio. These too appear easy-to-follow steps that target the legs, arms, abdominals, core and gluteus.

The music turns peppy and cajoles the dancers to move along. The trainer ensures a level of synchronisation as their moves shuffle from cumbia and chachacha to salsa, soca and samba to flamenco, meringue and mambo, to bhangra, rumba and reggae to belly dance and tango, to quebradita and martial arts…I am still figuring out many of these terms. But what I noticed was the party-like atmosphere inside the studio. You have to enjoy what you are doing and the batch definitely was. There were moments when the explosive Latin and international music rhythms were belted out faster than the steps the dancers could cope with. But none gave up. A loud clap from Gopi master zoomed them back into the racy mode.

Watching the intense hour of fast rhythmic dance and high-energy aerobic exercise made me sweat. “If you do this for an hour, you will burn 500 to 600 calories,” Gopi assures me. I can sense ever since it was introduced in January, zumba has become a sought after routine by women wanting to knock off the extra pounds.

“It is very easy, first try out the low intensity easy steps,” Radha tries to motivate me. She has been attending the zumba classes for last six months. “I have lost inches and my body feels toned-up,” she smiles.

Her batch mates find it to be a stress-buster. Some have lost a few kilos from the high-intensity work out which was introduced to the world in 1986 by Columbia-based fitness instructor, Alberto Perez. The word "zumba" apparently is Colombian slang meaning to buzz like a bee or move fast.

Gopinath is the only certified zumba master in Southern Tamil Nadu. He takes morning and evening classes at Euforia on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and travels to Sivakasi rest of the days. “Zumba is a full body workout that strengthens muscles, builds endurance and increases flexibility,” he says.

Since he has a mixed group, Gopi has tailor-made a crisp session of simple and subtle steps that can be easily followed by all. He features different songs in different languages during the hour-long session to pluck out any kind of boredom. “The idea is to lift the mood of the people who come to enjoy this time,” he says.

The other advantage about Zumba, he adds, is that it does not involve either a rigorous diet or workout. “It is a lively holistic programme that focuses equally on every part of the body without feeling it.” The secret of Zumba lies in the blend of different dances and the high energy Latin and world music that accompanies it. “You will love the fun of gracefully moving in an unconstrained way,” he says.

I have been told I can choose the moves suiting my body type and energy levels. I am still making mental notes of all the jumping and thumping, yelling and stretching, twisting and turning and gathering information on rocking, popping, locking, rapping and bokwa dance. What I have understood is that in the fitness craze among men and women lies the staying power of zumba. And Euforia Danscool promises of endless possibilities.

I have begun to feel the zing! If you too are reading this, just dial 4524090 for more details.