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group exercise: zumba

The instructors at Maloca Dance Studios in London, including (third from right) Catalina Vitolo

a video camera and editing equipment. We then fi lmed a class and edited it down to a three-minute video clip.” Perlman’s business nous then came

to the fore, securing a meeting with Fitness Quest – one of America’s biggest distributors of fi tness videos – and presenting the video to its executives, branding Perez as the “new Latin-American Billy Blanks” (the creator of Tae Bo). It was a successful pitch, stoking enough interest for the executives to meet Perez. “I didn’t speak English at this time,”

Perez recalls. “But they were interested in doing an infomercial and videos, so I said: ‘Send me the script and I’ll take classes with an English tutor’.”

popularity boom Within one year, the DVDs had sold more than a million copies and interest among fitness instructors began to grow. In 2003, Perez ran the first accreditation workshop, attended by 160 instructors; three years later, several thousand had qualified, and today the classes are taught by 12,000 instructors in 105 countries. Meanwhile Orlando, Florida, will

play host to the world’s fi rst Zumba Convention next month. Perez’s excitement is palpable as he describes what’s in the pipeline. “The opening of

Zumba classes at Maloca Dance Studios cater for all abilities and focus on having a good time

the convention is the Zumbathon, which will be like a big concert experience – a huge space full of lights, artists and live musicians and, at the same time, we will teach massive classes – very cool!” Yet for all its commercial success,

Perez still faces resistance. “People always think Zumba will be around for a year or two, like a fashion. But it’s not

– I’ve been teaching my Zumba class for 25 years and I love it, people love it and it’s addictive. We have three generations in the same class – grandmother, mother and daughter.” A trip to the Maloca Dance Studios in

London, the UK’s fi rst Zumba Academy run by contemporaries of Perez – the husband and wife team Catalina and Giuseppe Vitolo – confi rms the appeal Perez is talking about. As someone not famed for her co-ordination skills, I was pleasantly surprised to fi nd a mixture of abilities in the class I joined. Unlike conventional aerobics workouts, the

class was less about perfectly imitating our instructor and more about having a good time. I found myself woefully off- beat at times but having a ball, spurred on by the boundless enthusiasm of our instructor and the infectious music. Meanwhile one 57-year-old participant

told me afterwards that she’d been taking the classes for fi ve weeks and had already seen a change, explaining: “I’ve felt more energised since coming. I’m sleeping better, eating less and I don’t feel as hungry after I’ve fi nished. I’ve even lost three quarters of a stone.”

measure of success With his legacy now firmly established in the fitness world, is Perez ready to sit back and take stock? It would seem not. “I’m so ambitious, and at Zumba we don’t stop,” he says. A number of different types

of Zumba are already available: a generic class for all levels of fi tness, Zumbatomic for children, Zumba Gold for the elderly and the wheelchair- bound, a water-based version known as Aqua Zumba, and Zumba Toning (75 per cent toning and 25 per cent dancing). An interactive version of the class is expected to go out on Xbox and Wii later this year, and Perez has already begun planning a second convention in Europe for 2011. Yet for all its commercial success,

perhaps the most striking feature of Zumba is Perez’s attitude. The biggest gauge of success for him is, he says, an intangible one: “For me, the best prize is for the people to smile.” maryrose fi son

48 Read Health Club Management online at july 2010 © cybertrek 2010

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