“Not just adults, Zumba is for kids too”

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“Strong is the new skinny,” says Sucheta Pal, ambassador and education specialist, Zumba Fitness  LLC. In an interview with The Peeper Times, Pal tells us how Zumba is aiding in developing a healthy lifestyle among people of all age groups, and why it is not just financially but also emotionally rewarding to take up a career in this fitness and dance form.

You are an ambassador of Zumba in India. Tell us, what does Zumba mean to you? 

Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” I have a blessed life as my lifelines are innervated with strong life forces like Zumba and the family of instructors in India who I have the honour to train and guide. Quoting something that is apt: “A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his/her work and his play; his labour and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.”​ Simply put, Zumba is an integral part of my life.

How did you get introduced to Zumba fitness?

It was freezing winters of Connecticut (US) in 2009. I remember walking to a nearby dance studio. The energy of the class, my instructor’s million dollar smile, the Latin and international music, the happiness and warmth I received on that day from my instructor and 80 fellow participants – warms my heart even today. That was the d​ay I decided that I would dance the rest of my life!

Tell us about the origin of this fitness programme. How did it get its fame?

Zumba fitness is always called a “Happy accident.” One day, Alberto “Beto” Perez, a Colombian who was an aerobics instructor in the early ’90s, forgot to carry music tapes to his classes. Since he had to conduct the classes, he decided to play the Latin music (he had Latin music tapes in his car). Being an amazing Latin dancer, he started to mix Latin moves with the aerobics exercises; and that was the first unofficial Zumba class.

He conducted 9-10 classes of this revolutionary fitness and dance every week. He then moved to the capital of Colombia – Bogota and became quite popular. He wanted global footprint and a bigger platform for his dance, so he decided to take Zumba to the US. But it wasn’t a cakewalk! He had to struggle in the US – he slept on benches, knocked on every gym door to accept his Zumba fitness. After struggling for four years in Miami, he got his first break when one fitness director accepted his request.

As he conducted his Zumba class, interest in his fitness routine grew among gym members. By the end of his one hour session, the class was full. And the rest is history.

Zumba does not require any previous dance experience or any equipment. Unlike many exercises and sports, the only equipment your kids need is their body

Is Zumba suitable for children? 

Who says only adults like to get their groove on? It’s a dance-and-play party for little ones and it’s perfect for our younger Zumba fans. Kids in the age group of 4-11 years get a chance to socialise with friends and jam out to their favorite music.

Since the requirements of kids vary depending on their age, they have been grouped into two categories – Jr kids (age group 4-6 years) and kids (7-11 years old). The programmes have been designed taking into consideration their attention span, comprehension ability and getting their involvement in each segment of the session.

Zumba Kids Jr classes are rocking, high-energy dance parties packed with kid-friendly routines. We break down steps, add games, activities and cultural exploration elements into the class structure.

Nowadays, activities like hoop, kids gym, aerobics, gymnastics are more popular among children. Where do you see Zumba among the plethora of activities? How is it different from other fitness activities? 

With declining play area, more emphasis on learning and grades, distraction caused by electronic and digital devices, parents are on the lookout for creative and physical activities to engage children. Typically, children have short attention span and lots of energy but few dance skills. Fortunately, Zumba does not require any previous dance experience or any equipment. Unlike many exercises and sports, the only equipment your kids need is their body. Here, they’ll never strike out, miss a basket or finish last. They can do their own thing. Kids can become comfortable and confident with their own body. It’s a healthy form of self-expression.

Zumba feels more like a party than a lesson. It consists of one hour of structured dance, fun, games, music, themed activities, goal and breaks. The objective of Zumba Kids programmes is not just to dance or involve them in physical activity, but these creatively designed sessions aid physical, motor skills development, kinesthetic memory, cognitive skills, memory and retention, health, respect, cultural awareness, confidence, self-esteem, reasoning, team building and leadership qualities. Moving our bodies to music strengthens the connection between our body and mind by supporting both the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. It develops a healthy lifestyle and incorporates fitness as a natural part of children’s lives.

As a master trainer in India, how are you planning to promote Zumba fitness in India, especially among children?

Zumba fitness has touched many lives; it is no longer just an hour of exercise in our day. It’s a meaningful pillar in various aspects for many people. It’s not just for youth; we have people of all age groups and from all walks of life spreading their love for Zumba. We have seen corporate goers to home-makers, children to elderly, men or women – all equally benefitting not only physically but also in terms of huge changes in their mental happiness and strength.

All Zumba programmes are provided by Zumba instructors who have completed their basic training followed by a specialisation in Zumba Kids programme. The only way to check the license of a trainer is by checking their name on the official website

We have a team of 16  strong master trainers (we call them Zumba education specialists) who are taking this word of good health and happiness via Zumba to not only cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru but also Guwahati, Bhubaneswar, Kochi, Goa, Surat, Dehradun, Ludhiana, and the list is long.

​We have several training and promotional activities in the pipeline to mushroom the goodness of Zumba across different cities in India.

Where can one go to attend Zumba classes? What are the skill sets that one should look for in a Zumba trainer? 

There are many dance schools, health clubs, studios and gyms which offer classes for kids and adults. Make an informed decision before going to any fitness instructor, do check their credentials. All Zumba programmes are provided by Zumba instructors who have completed their basic training followed by a specialisation in Zumba Kids programme. The only way to check the license of a trainer is by checking their name on zumba.com which is the official website of Zumba fitness.​

Is Zumba for everyone? 

We often tell people that anybody – and we mean anyone – can take a Zumba class. And we aren’t kidding! All you need is the will to move. Whether you’ve got zero coordination, two left feet or have been a dancer all your life, there’s plenty of fun here. Unlike a traditional dance choreography class, the Zumba formula consists of basic steps that are frequently repeated, set to amazing tunes. So, it’s not about nailing the moves. It’s about feeling the music and simply moving, period.

However, it is always good to consult your doctor before joining a class, esp., if you have been inactive due to medical reasons, have any medical issues or take any medicines. It is important to talk to your instructors about your fitness level or health issues before you start the classes, so that they can suggest modifications.

What are the certifications required to become a Zumba trainer?

​To become a licensed Zumba fitness instructor, it is compulsory to undertake a two-day instructor training programme, officially conducted under the structured curriculum of Zumba fitness, Miami head office. It is a rigorous training comprising fitness method, science of Zumba and teaching methodology. Post that, you get an opportunity to be a part of the prestigious network called the Zumba Instructor Network or ZIN. This is the key to success for any licensed instructor as it provides the lifelong support of trademarked choreography, licensed Zumba music and marketing support for their classes. One can register for trainings only via zumba.com; and the same method is followed across 186 countries by the company.

Women are embracing more active lifestyle. The new beauty standard is, “Strong is the new skinny.” Today, fitness has become a highly rewarding pursuit for all as the new standard of beauty; and a means to enjoy community and personal strength

What would you like to tell those students who want to make a career in Zumba fitness? How can they go about it? What kind of salaries can they expect in this profession?

Fifteen million people in 186 countries take Zumba classes at least once a week. Women and men, from all walks of life and of all ages, have chosen this either as primary or secondary job with an average yearly income of Rs 1.2-4.8 lakh and a monthly average from Rs 15K to 50K. Freshers from college are taking it up as full-time career. Housewives are earning their living, and are contented by striking a balance between their personal and professional lives. We have people from the corporate industry who too have joined the bandwagon (full time as well as part time). Zumba community has generated employment opportunities for college students from Pune to small town girls in Ranchi or Raipur or Surat, from army wives in Jammu to housewives in Cochin – it’s not only changing the GDP of India but also bringing societal change.

These instructors understand that Zumba is an organic cultural fitness format embracing world cultures, and also a company with a multifaceted business model and an aggressive growth strategy. Another thing many people don’t realize about Zumba is its breadth. Yes, this is a fitness company, but it’s also becoming an influential player in the music world, striking deals with artists like Jason Derulo, Meghan Trainor, Steve Aoki, Wyclef Jean and Pitbull to promote their songs in its classes and feature them on its CD compilations.

For all those who want to take it up as a career, look for basic training programme in your city on the official website, zumba.com and enroll yourself. I also do keep posting these schedules on my social media handles. You can either take this as a full-time or part-time career.

Women are embracing more active lifestyle. The new beauty standard is, “Strong is the new skinny.” Today, fitness has become a highly rewarding pursuit for all as the new standard of beauty; and a means to enjoy community and personal strength.

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