Our beloved BellyJam class didn’t run on Thursday 8th December thanks to Hurricane Bawbag.
My decision to cancel was in line with the Edinburgh Council and Lothian & Borders Police advice not to travel and I considered it would be quite irresponsible to tempt people out on a potentially dangerous night. High risk does not always equal high reward… Take Zumba Fitness for example;
Zumba is a MACHINE driven by marketing and exploitation. Harsh you might say? well here’s why…
Zumba is essentially a 1989 aerobics fitness class that has been branded, heavily. The concept isn’t new, the branding is, oh… and the message that “it’s doesn’t matter if you’re not doing it right, just have fun!”
Zumba was reportedly born when aerobics instructor, Alberto Perez, forgot his music for a class he was delivering one day. He ran out to his car where he had a tape with salsa and merengue music on it. In the fitness industry forgetting your music for an ‘Exercise To Music’ class is incompetence and general salsa/merengue music doesn’t have the progressive bpm or 32-phrasing for an effective aerobics class so this wouldn’t actually meet the aims of participants. Oblivious to either of these things, apparently his class loved it and so “Zumba” was born.
Zumba grew and Mr. Perez’ students began to instruct their own classes. Over the next ten years investors came on board and the Les Mills – Body Training Systems (BTS) revolution that sold to public & private gyms globally had successfully blown open the group classes market and then plateaued, and salsa dancing was also at peak popularity, paving the way for the expansion of Zumba. A pyramid structure was then set up to secure the rapid growth of Zumba and paid endorsements from various celebrities elevated it’s status and the ball was rolling…
The emphasis of a Zumba class is not on having the best fitness technique you possibly can in order to get the results you want, it’s on having fun and dancing around like you’re at a party to burn calories. Great! …Brilliant! Except, eh dude? …that’s actually bloody dangerous when you’re standing in a 54m x 33m sports hall lined with 10 rows of 15 people. You’re at the back and can only follow the person in front, who is following the person in front of them and so on and so forth …all the way to the front where 1 instructor attempts to lead you all visually with little or no verbal instruction or teaching points. Movements we did in the classes I attended were decidedly iffy even for me and definitely not for the exercise inexperienced target market of Zumba. There were no proper warm up, main section and cool down structures to the classes I attended and generally, knowing what I know about fitness and exercise I wouldn’t rush back. Ever. I did however give Zumba a really good open-minded taster and I can say on the positive side it was good fun …but then realistically I could have had that fun standing in my living room flailing my limbs around to a music channel “…all the single ladies, ALL THE SINGLE LADIES… …all the single ladies, ALL THE SINGLE LADIES…”
A safe participant to instructor ratio is considered to be no more than 20 : 1. Teaching should take the form of naming the move, the areas of the body being worked, the individual muscles, a silent demonstration, explained demonstration, teaching and correction. Instruction should be at a minimum.
A “Certified Zumba Instructor” is an individual who has paid £190 (US$300) to attend an 8 hour course which includes a short tutorial, receiving an instuction manual, 3 x DVD’s to watch, 1 x music CD and a certificate of completion. There are no prerequisites, you’re 80 year old granny with a heart condition and chronic osteoporosis could become a Certified Zumba Instructor, as long as she hands over £190 and turns up on the day. There are a number of very good professionally qualified fitness instructors who have sadly felt compelled to pay up to “join the party” as they’ve had their regular teaching slot taken from them in favour of adding Zumba to the timetable, so it’s a case of either beat them or join them. Zumba apparently contains salsa, Bachata, Merengue, Reggaeton, Hip Hop, Street Dance and “Belly Dance” There are additional class types including Aqua Zumba which is inherently flawed. The skills of each individual instructor will vary drastically, be warned.
By 2011 Zumba has now rolled out its pyramid structure within 125 countries with a reported 2 million people taking part in weekly classes at studios, gyms, community centres, schools, you name it Zumba will be there. It has it’s own fitness equipment range, training shoes, the most popular wii game this year, clothing range and as I sickeningly discovered the other day a Zumba newborn baby onesie, so now your treasured little bubba can endorse Zumba too!
Zumba gets people off the couch and introduces a new spectrum of people to dance fitness classes, all be it training the majority of these people to value industry crippling low prices and low quality sessions which make claim to more than they are realistically capable of. As with all things in life, there is a balance to be found within. There are positives to Zumba and it will leave it’s creative legacy within the dance fitness industry paving the way for another trend to follow. I just hope people can use their common sense, take initiative to learn about quality & movement and that there aren’t too many injuries & court settlements along the way!
This post is likely to come under pressure by unknowing enthusiasts and the teams of people Zumba employs on a full time basis to police the internet for such outing truths. As a professional dance teacher & fitness instructor who has studied the industry for many years I am qualified to own these opinions and I do so proudly. Safe & honest exercise will always be my passionate motivation. My participants will always come first.
Of course the flip side of “high risk, high reward” is that you might just reach out to the best thing you’ve ever done! Make informed choices, limit the risk and you’ll rarely go wrong.
If you’ve had enough of Zumba for a while, come try my BellyJam class. It’s a safe, effective & good fun fusion of Belly Dance Aerobics. Ironically, the only real challenge I face with BellyJam is sourcing more BellyDance Aerobics music as it’s so specialised it’s not in mainstream production!
Ditch the Zombies, join our Jams!
(btw if you own a couple of Zumba branded tshirts you want rid of, don’t think about trying to sell them on ebay, they’ll have your account suspended in a bid to control the supply/demand/value of the Zumba brand, yeah I know, SHOCKING! You can buy the above t-shirt for £14.50 from GetAroundGlasgow …they have my size!)