by Kelcie Pegher, The Beach Reporter
With top 40 music playing, Monica Victorino mentioned to her audience of 300 or so that the most recent song had been a request.
And then we got to business.
“There’s only one goal, and that’s to have fun,” she said as she started teaching the moves to warm up to “Cheerleader” by Omi.
Before I know it, I’m waving and touch-stepping just like the rest of the crowd at Lincoln Elementary, who have come for a free class by the Beach Cities Health District. Every summer, the BCHD offers summer classes that are both family friendly and healthy. A typical week has around 300 people, though it has gone up to as many as 450.
Zumba classes are taught by Victorino, who has been teaching Zumba for the last eight years or so.
As for me? I’m a Zumba novice; I have 13 years of childhood ballet under my belt, and as a former theater kid, can pick up the choreography to just about anything. But Zumba has eluded me. Maybe it’s because most classes for Zumba are directly related to gym memberships, and I’m not really the gym membership type.
But, as it turns out, I’m exactly the person Susan Burden, the CEO of BCHD, is trying to reach. Teaching classes like Zumba and opening them up to the public takes away a lot of the barriers that people have even getting to a gym in the first place. Since implementing the program five years ago, more than 13,000 have attended the free classes.
“It’s just getting to be a community where you have no excuse,” she said.
The mental benefits of being around your community is also beneficial. Burden said groups of women come every week to see each other at Zumba. On Monday evening, families and friends gathered to try their hand at Zumba—cha-chaing, and rolling their hips.
“We’re just finding the physical activity is almost secondary to the community we build,” she said.
Just halfway into the first song, I still felt a little silly. We all looked half a step behind Victorino, and took a few tries to get the steps down. At some point, we all looked like we were, well, flailing more than dancing.
But soon the music started to take over, and I became just a little bit less self conscious. My dancing became a little more natural—and I didn’t even have the kind of lubrication necessary to convince me to get on the dance floor. And soon, it was fun. My dance neighbors tapped their toes and raised their hands at all the right moments. We all turned and clapped.
It wasn’t exactly the burning workout I was expecting, but for an hour, we all let go of the stress of the day and had fun. Amy Grigg brought her daughter Evelyn, who is one of four children she has under the age of 10.
Grigg said that this is her first real time doing Zumba. She found out about the summer sessions at BCHD and started off with their yoga on the beach. On Monday, Evelyn, 8, joined her mom.
“Exercising is way expensive, like tons of money,” she said.
Coming to BCHD is a nice way to get some “me time” in, she said.
“I wish they did it all year.”
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