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Posted January 27, 2009 | comments Leave a comment

Zumba craze combines fitness and dance with Latin flair

Stacey Chatman-Henry, Xtreme Fit Studio president, leads Zumba class at Sherando High School. Stacey Keenan/Daily


The Frederick County Parks and Recreation Department offers Zumba classes year-round. The next five-week session begins on Feb. 12 and runs through mid-March.

The class meets from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays in the multi-purpose room in the community center at Sherando High School in Stephens City. The cost is $38.

For more information or to register, call the Frederick County Parks and Recreation Department at 665-5600 or visit the Web site at www.co.frederick.va.us/parks.

Tesa Unger, front, of Winchester, and Stephanie Minbiole, of Stephens City, work out in the Zumba class. Stacey Keenan/Daily

Xtreme Fit Studio Zumba instructor Margo Steadman leads a fitness class at Sherando High School in Stephens City. Stacey Keenan/Daily

By Stacey Keenan -- Daily Correspondent

STEPHENS CITY -- "Find your level, ladies."

The upbeat instructor repeats the steps she wants her students to follow. The women in the room dutifully respond, sweating to the music in this weekly fitness class in the community center at Sherando High School in Stephens City.

Then, the sensual, fast-paced beat of pop artist Shakira's "Hips Don't Lie" resonates through the room. Hips start shakin', bodies are swayin' and shoulders are shimmyin'. The energy level goes through the roof, and every now and then a "whoop, whoop" and a "woo" echo from the women.

The atmosphere rivals that of a steamy, crowded Miami nightclub, and it's obvious this is anything but an average fitness class.

Margo Steadman, a fitness instructor with Xtreme Fit Studio in Winchester, is guiding the ladies through an hour-long session of Zumba, a relatively new fitness trend that's sweeping the nation.

Zumba, offered by the Frederick County Parks and Recreation Department, is an eclectic fusion of Latin dance moves and cardio workout techniques.

"Zumba is full of Latin flair and flavor. There are lots of rhythmic beats," says Stacey Chatman-Henry, president of Xtreme Fit Studio, which partners with Frederick County Parks and Recreation to teach community fitness programs.

The dance styles in Zumba consist of salsa, merengue, cha-cha and reggaeton (a Latin hip-hop). Some might cringe at the thought of complex dance moves, but part of what makes Zumba appealing is its simplicity, says Chatman-Henry.

"There are three single dance moves per song. That's important, because it's not overloaded with choreography," she says. "You don't get so confused, and you can focus on having fun."

Another aspect that makes Zumba so popular is its high-energy cardio workout, but low impact on the body. This makes the fitness program accessible to people of all exercise levels and all ages.

"It's low impact, versus high-impact aerobics," says Chatman-Henry.

The fitness program is helping people from Connecticut to California discover their inner club dancer and find an interest in fitness that keeps them coming back for more.

"I'm one of those people who, if I just go to the gym, I'm not going to go," says Renee Hockman, of Strasburg. "But, with this, I signed up for it, so I'm going to come. I've taken a variety of classes. [Zumba] is fun. It's a great all-around workout."

Hockman has been coming to Zumba classes for more than a year, and, combined with other fitness classes and a healthy diet, she's lost almost 90 pounds. Hockman enjoys the class so much, she's even convinced her cousin to join her.

Other women in the class echo Hockman's sentiment. Doni Taylor, of Stephens City, has been taking Zumba classes since 2007.

"I really like it. It's a lot of fun. I haven't lost weight, but I've lost inches, with combining [Zumba] with other things," Taylor says. "I have a good time. Even though I have two left feet, it's a lot of fun."

The women agree there's a different draw to Zumba than to other fitness classes, and most of the women in the class have been attending for quite some time. In fact, Steadman, the instructor, was once a student in the class herself, but the story starts with Chatman-Henry.

In March of 2007, Chatman-Henry became a certified Zumba instructor, the first in this area. When she began teaching classes in the spring of 2007, Steadman became one of her first students.

"I love the fact that it's fun but you get a great aerobic workout," Steadman says. "I took classes for about a year. I wanted to take it to the next level, so I decided to get certified and Stacey mentored me."

For many of the women who come to Zumba classes, it's more than just the workout. Lori Dixon, of Stephens City, has been participating in Zumba classes since May of last year

"It's fun. I look forward to coming every week. There's a social aspect beyond the health benefits," she says.

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