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Issue Date: May 2009

Latin (Fitness) Lovers

Jennifer Keirn
A packed room of men and women baring plenty of skin dance up a sweat to thumping Latin and hip-hop beats —without the meat-market vibe and overpriced drinks of the nightclub scene.

This is the Latin dance fitness craze known as Zumba, which has everyone from corporate executives to elderly grandmothers channeling their inner Shakira.

Created by Columbian celebrity trainer Beto Perez more than 20 years ago, Zumba classes can be found in 45,000 fitness clubs, dance studios and community centers in 35 countries. In the U.S., Ohio is third only to California and Florida in Zumba popularity (as measured by numbers of instructors and classes per capita).

Now based in Miami, Perez will make his first visit here June 6 to preside over a Zumba class at LifeWorks of Southwest General in Middleburg Heights, where up to 300 devotees from throughout the region are expected to flock. With a bit of translation help, we spoke to Perez in advance of his Cleveland debut.

Why is Zumba so popular?

Because Zumba touches the happiness [in people]. There’s the economic situation, the wars ... but people come to Zumba for one hour to smile, forget your kids, your job, your responsibilities and have a good time.

What do you do when you’re not traveling the world promoting it?
People expect me to be at the nightclubs all the time, but that’s the last thing I want to do. My life is a party. I hear music every day. It feels like work when I go out. I have two motorcycles, and I like to ride to South Beach and take in the sun.

What kinds of results do you see people getting from Zumba?
Some people lose weight, but that was the last thing I was thinking. It’s very good for stress. They don’t have to count, they don’t have to feel the burn or [listen to a] drill sergeant. It’s like yoga, but on the opposite end of the spectrum.

Fitness trends come and go. What gives Zumba staying power?
This type of dance-party fitness, its essence was always there, we just formalized it and took it around the world. I feel like Forrest Gump. One day he starts running, and people follow him. One day I start dancing, and people follow me.

Tickets to Beto Perez’s class at LifeWorks of Southwest General can be ordered in advance by calling (440) 816-4210. The class is $35 for LifeWorks members and $44 for nonmembers.

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