Sunday, October 21, 2012

Zin 41 tackles cueing

First, a disclaimer. I'm a Zumba critic. But as an advocate. Not as a snob.

I attend classes wherever, whenever, whomever, just to see what's happening out there, who has the best routines, flavor, style, enthusiasm. I attend because I appreciate a great class and a great workout. And I especially attend so I can be a better Zumba teacher.

Coming into this fitness training thing late in life, I have a lot to learn and I'm never going to be the best. But I'm going to be enthusiastic, bring the party to it, and try to be as good as I can. There is only so much I can do about my 'limited memory banks' when it comes to remembering 100 percent of any routine. But the rest of the success of my class is up to me.

So it was interesting to really hear a firm message from Beto and the Zumba  message on this latest Zin 41 DVD. No quibbling here.

• Don't introduce new moves between songs. Just start the dang song.
• Shut up and non-verbally cue.

Sounds simple. But it takes a fair amount of practice.

The voice-over on the one-on-one portion of the DVD was the best I've heard.  It reminds us to start slow, set the step and style, get the class comfortable, then build on it.

It shows --- and tells us --- how to preview the next movement a beat before we start into it. No nuance. Real direction.

And it reminds us to watch the class, to keep each part of the routine simple until they become comfortable. Then go for it.

And it also reminds us that these routines aren't static. They are suggestions, not mandates and we're to use our own style and flavor as we teach. In fact, it's what will make us each personally successful.

And as a self-proclaimed Zumba critic, that's what I'm looking for. I want you to have your own style and flavor. But I don't want to be frustrated trying to figure out what the heck the routine is, which direction to go, what my arms and hips are supposed to be doing. Keep it simple, cue me clearly, and bring on your party. Then I'm sure to be back, no matter where your class is held.

Postcript:  Having just returned from teaching a Zumba Gold class, watch for an upcoming post on the dilemma of cueing in Gold. It's not the same beast. Or is it?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Getting back in shape with Zumbathon workouts

Felipe Rivera and Cynthia Henderson are Latin dance experts
I started back into 'life in the Finger Lakes' with our Saturday morning Zumba Gold class at the Hector Wine Co. in Hector, NY, with a chance to stand in the back and workout instead of teaching. I start back on Monday morning.

It was a great way to start a Saturday morning since I have a fair amount of jet lag left from a month-long travel around the globe.

A quick nap prepared me for an afternoon 'Party in Pink' Zumbathon at Island Fitness in Ithaca, NY. I've been meaning to check out the facility and the classes all summer long but when the weather is good at the lake, who can leave Seneca Lake? Apparently, not me.

The facility is fantastic. Light. Clean. Well-equipped. Affordable! After years of California athletic clubs, this one blows the doors off for the price. And why should I be surprised? Of course the Ithaca community would prioritize affordable workout facilities in a place where the winters must test the most stoic Northeasterner.

I love Zumba jams that give me a sample of multiple instructors so I know whose class I want to make sure I try in the future. Seven instructors brought their best stuff forward. Individual styles are so important to the Zumba crowd and the background and the influence of the teacher comes through, whether it is dance, strength training, belly dancing, aerobics. All were excellent and I'll be back to Island Fitness next week to try Deb Noonan's toning class on Tuesday.  Two instructors I'll also be following are Cynthia Henderson, who teaches Zumba at Islands on Monday at 4:30 p.m, and Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at the City Health Club, and Felipe Rivera at Finger Lakes Fitness.

Party in Pink at Island Fitness, Ithaca, NY
The next jam on my schedule is the SPCA fundraiser on the Commons in Ithaca, sponsored by the Finger Lakes Fitness Center.
It's next Saturday, Oct. 20 at 1 p.m.

I hope to see you there. It's a great event and a cause that is always near and dear to my heart.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Two Zumba classes: a great day

I discovered at the last minute that Pakko was on vacation in Hawaii and had canceled his Zumba classes this week in Sacramento and that my Zumba buddies were all headed to Pepper Von's class instead.

Woo Hoo! Pepper Von and my Zumba buddies? Perfect.

Pepper is a fitness legend around Sacramento, and now in Zumba nationally. Last week (while I was in Tonga) he was teaching a Zumba class to my instructor colleagues in New York --- something I was disappointed that I had to miss. I already knew I liked Pepper's style, choreo's and enthusiasm from one class I had tried last year before we moved from Sacramento. So it would have been a great opportunity to meet my new New York Zumba Zin buddies and do another class with him. I definitely need a clone so I can be all the places I want to be at the same time.

We had an energetic, non-stop, fun (no other way to describe) hour. Hard to beat, hard to describe.

For one thing, he's got two drummers (pictured above) to accompany the music and one roams the class and keeps you on the beat, occasionally joins in the dance, keeps the energy really high.

The play list and one-hour class is literally non-stop --- no stopping to change the music or get a drink. Just go for it!

Pepper's got the most amazing classroom management I've ever seen --- in any class. Not just exercise or Zumba. And that's coming from a teacher.... Despite having 50 to 60 people in the room, if he sees you doing an exercise incorrectly, chewing gum, too close to a wall, he's got laser eye contact, still smiling, but somehow gets the right gesture and you know exactly what you're supposed to do/correct/change.

And he's smiling.  Everyone is smiling. No question you're there to have fun. And everyone does.

What I really watch for as a new student in anyone's class is how difficult it is to follow the instructor for a first class. And he's so easy to follow. So I started concentrating on how the heck he does that. It's through understandable, consistent gestures. It's clear when to stop one part of the choreo, move on to another. The choreo's are simple but not too repetitive to be boring. He introduces the new step a second before the next part start if it's remotely confusing. He includes the Latin dances but also has a fair amount of Hip Hop and African beat music. It really works.

Bottom line, he's great. Which is why he is now a sought after Zumba Education Specialist. Check his bio here and see what he's already accomplished.

He's teaching a Sentao class tomorrow afternoon (Thursdays) and a Toning class on Tuesday. I'll check one of these out before heading back to New York next week. If you haven't tried a class with him, head down to his Step 1 Studio pronto!

Back to Sacramento: a Zumba epicenter

We just got back to Sacramento last night from our trip to the Kingdom of Tonga in the South Pacific, and after an ungodly amount of sitting in jumbo jets, I decided to work off my jet lag and vacation hangover with some of the top Zumba teachers in the area.

I started out this morning with Linda Taylor who was teaching a Zumba Gold class at Step 1 studio on 19th and T Streets. Awesome teacher, great routines and enthusiasm, really paid attention to everyone in the class. She's very active in Zumba and was voted to be a representative for instructors for California and Hawaii. She invited me to join her and her daughter, Latoya Bufford, in class tonight but I'll probably wait until next Monday, when my jet lag is barely a memory. But there was nothing better for me this morning then to sweat that jetlag out, dance with friends, then drink a bunch of water. And then take a nap before finding another class tonight.

A wonderful problem is trying to figure out how to make it to all (or at least some) of the great instructors in the area. My choices tonight include some of the my favorites: Pepper Von at 5:30 at Step 1, Pakko (Abraham Contreras) at the Yemaya Studio near REI at the same time, or Linda and Toya at 7 on Florin Road. All excellent instructors, all tough decisions. And this is just the tip of the iceberg --- just some of my favorite ones that are close to Midtown.

Attending other Zumba classes is a great catalyst for new routines, new approaches to choreography and just a plain old refresher for my classes in New York and Mexico. I always get something from a class.
Always. Sometimes I'm reminded how not to do something. But that's okay too. I find it's helpful to be a student and remember what it's like to try to follow a new routine.

So, maybe see y'all in a class somewhere soon?