A rumble in the Zumba

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Fitness dance sensation Zumba is taking the Fylde by storm as Jacqui Morley discovered with help from teenage reporter Eloise Millard

At 10 years old, Zumba is hardly a craze, but the fitness dance sensation is taking the Fylde by storm, and now and it’s catching on with the kids too.

It’s a registered trademark, so jump on this high-powered bandwagon at your peril, unless prepared to honour the strictures of something that is part sport, part dance, and all unadulterated fun.

It was discovered, by accident, by choreographer Alberto Perez, after taking a salsa tape from his car into his aerobics class – and improvising an exercise routine to match. His students loved it.

It’s incredibly hard to resist. The music’s like some Latino siren, pounding out a beat it’s impossible to ignore. If you sit, you’ll find your toes tapping. Stand, and you’ll be joining in.

It’s low intensity, they say, but the pace seems fast, fun, and funky, and reaches those parts other aerobic exercises may touch just briefly. Core stability, flexibility, lower back, thighs, tums, bums, metabolism, the works, get a workout here.

Two hours after (briefly!) joining in a Monday night Blackpool Council-run class intended for teenagers a quarter of my age, and body weight, I’m aching in areas I’d long forgotten existed, and other parts even loved ones never appreciated I had. Four hours later, I feel that lift only exercise brings ... and get a decent night’s kip too.

Next day, I’m surfing the internet, and our own Gazette What’s On listings, for details of a local class – for women of advancing years and encroaching arthritis. New classes are starting all the time – including some in Poulton next week. Adults are pretty well catered for locally – it’s the kids who would prefer to use local authority facilities who tend to miss out. We need a few more Zumba Gold (for older or disabled participants) too.

Under health and fitness manager Jo Ashton’s lead, Sports Blackpool’s leisure facilities have extended activities available, for young people (11-16), allowing them in from 11 to access the traditionally adult-dominated fitness studios at Blackpool Sports Centre and Palatine Leisure Centre, Monday to Thursday from 9am to 5.30pm and all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

What’s more, they can continue to access the fitness studios outside these hours, accompanied by an adult.

Leisure cards must be held by the young person, parental consent received, and an induction process followed.

And despite the range of activities available including spinning, climbing, bouldering, basketball, netball and more, Zumba looks like being a big hit with kids who would not otherwise buy into the idea of exercise for exercise’s sake. It’s all about making it fun.

But what exactly is it? We all know papa likes mambo, mamma likes salsa and your nana enjoys a waltz, with a sultry rumba on the side, but Zumba is all the rage on the hip-wriggling toe-tapping Fylde coast. It’s all about ditching the workout and joining the party. Thanks to specially Zumba-trained tutors, such as Clare O’Malley, who’s gone through the official accreditation process, young people like the latest fitness and dance sensation, as it combines all the elements they love in streetdance with high-energy keep fit.

“Diversity has a lot to answer for,” she admits. Eva Longoria-Parker of Desperate Housewives fame is said to be a big fan – along with Jackie Chan and other celebrities. Leanne Kapa, 13 the youngest in the group (the rest are all 14) currently being coached by Clare, concedes: “I’d probably be home just watching the telly if I wasn’t here.”

Georgia Roberts enjoys school sports, but says Zumba is “more like going out and having a laugh than feeling as if you’re doing a sport or even dancing. It’s both, really.”

Sabine Dunstan says her nana got her into it. “Seriously. She’s about 60 or something and lives in Cumbria and thought it would be great for me. It is!”

Amy Drabble, statuesque at 6ft, agrees. “I never see myself as very co-ordinated, but I like the steps because they’re easy.”

And Katy Moss and Erin Gilbert agree: “It’s good because you don’t feel like you’re exercising ... although you really know it later.” Darn right, you do.

Zumba offers six class styles, and anyone in the 4-12 age range falls into the Zumbatomic category – which is why Blackpool Council has dropped the initial tag “Younga Zumba”.

Even in Boogietown Blackpool, undisputed “strictly” ballroom and Latin American dance capital of the country, thanks to high profile telly appearances, international dance festivals, national street dance festivals, the best ballrooms in Britain, and first rate dance and theatre schools, there’s always room for the next best thing, and Zumba takes the street dance phenomenon one step further.

As for the name? It comes from the Columbian slang for move fast and have fun. It’s pronounced Zum-Bah!