Zumba: Fun Is Secret Ingredient of Latin Dance Workout
In Zumba exercise classes, it's all about feeling the music.
Latin rhythms pulse from Pittsburgh's Club One aerobics studio, where Maria
McCalister leads a Zumba class packed with the glistening bodies of nearly 50
people seeking to swivel, pivot, and shake their way to
McCalister coaches her students to feel the music, be it salsa, meringue, or
flamenco. "I don't talk much," she says. "I let the music move them
and inspire them."
Zumba, an aerobic dance class set to South American beats, is hot in health
clubs and exercise studios from Miami to Los Angeles and everywhere in
"Latin music just tends to make you feel happy and good," says
McCalister, 53. "I can have the bluest day, be depressed, hormones ranging,
whatever, and get in front of that class, turn on the music and I recharge my
life, my soul."
Adds McCalister: "When I put on Traigo Una Pena, a cha cha, my
class just screams. They're somewhere else; they're not in Pittsburgh when they
take a Zumba class."
That's exactly what creators were aiming for when they released Zumba
(Spanish slang for buzz like a bee or move fast) to the
"We say ditch the workout; join the party," says Zumba co-founder
and CEO, Alberto Perlman of Hollywood, Fla.
The Growth of Zumba
Zumba was born from an accident. Colombia-born Alberto "Beto" Perez
was teaching an aerobics class in his native Cali in 1986 and discovered he had
forgotten his usual music. So he dug through his bag of tapes and grabbed a mix
of salsa and meringue music he personally liked to dance to.
"I just said, 'Class today is different,'" says Perez, 37, who was
also a dance instructor. "Everybody loved it."
Zumba's success grew steadily after Perez moved first to Bogota, Colombia
and later to Miami. In 1999, Perlman and entrepreneur Alberto Aghion approached
Perez about taking Zumba to the mass market. The three began selling DVDs via
infomercial in 2002 and were very successful, but enthusiasts demanded
"The crazy thing was we were getting all these people from all around
the country who bought these videos and wanted to teach it," says
In 2005, Perez, Perlman, and Aghion developed an educational division, wrote
a training manual, and began offering Zumba workshops to those interested in
Today, there are an estimated 4 million Zumba enthusiasts and 25,000
instructors in 40 countries, according to Perlman. And Zumba executives
continue to feed the frenzy. The brand also offers music and choreography; a
clothing line; Zumba Gold classes, geared to seniors; Zumba Toning, a sculpting
class using weighted sticks that sound like maracas; and ZumbAtomic, a program
for kids aged 5 to 12.
No Complex Choreography
Barring any doctor's limitations, says Perlman, Zumba is safe for a range of
ages and fitness levels because the steps can be modified so that it's very
low-impact. And all you need are a good pair of dance shoes or