Zumba enthusiasts can dance to the beat at Stage AE

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
| Tuesday, April 9, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

More than 14 million people are moving to the beat of the music every week.

Zumba Fitness fuses entertainment and culture into a dance-party workout. Coined “fitness parties,” Zumba classes blend upbeat world rhythms with easy-to-follow choreography to provide total-body workouts. Founded in 2001, the company is the largest branded fitness program in the world.

Those who participate say it's invigorating, addictive, challenging and, most of all, fun. Nichole Fest of Indiana, Pa., schedules her life around it. She's even traveling 60 miles for a class.

Fest will be at one of the two sold-out Zumba Fitness events at 5 and 8 p.m. April 10 at Stage AE on the North Shore.

“The minute I heard about this event, I got my ticket,” says Fest, who attends up to four classes per week. “I am planning on leaving hours ahead of time to make sure I don't miss it.”

Fest is not alone. There are 14 million weekly class participants in more than 140,000 locations across more than 185 countries, according to Zumba Fitness.

It's a wonderful exercise, because it moves people, says Dr. Vonda Wright, an orthopedic surgeon for UPMC Center for Sports Medicine.

“It's done in a setting where you can shake your bootie without feeling ashamed,” Wright says. “So, it is not surprising it is wildly popular. I know plenty of people who go all the time. But, if you haven't shaken your bootie for years, take it slow. And don't be intimated doing it, because people of all ages and skill levels can participate.”

Classes feature routines set to fast and slow rhythms that tone and sculpt the body while burning fat. A person can burn up to 1,000 calories in a one-hour class, depending on the intensity of the workout, according to Zumba Fitness.

Pittsburgh is one of four stops on the nightclub tour. The others are Boston, Cincinnati and Queens, N.Y.

“This event is taking our existing Zumba Fitness class element and putting it into a nightclub setting,” says Zumba Fitness celebrity instructor Gina Grant, who will be leading the event to tunes played by DJ Lil Jon. “And with Lil Jon as DJ, it doesn't get much better than that. We will have Lil Jon's world and Zumba's world mixed together, which will make for a killer class.”

Pittsburgh was chosen for this event because a lot of fans asked for the tour to come here. Both sessions sold out quickly. There may be more in the future.

All you need to start is a good pair of shoes and comfortable clothing, although there is a line of Zumba Fitness apparel.

“Find the one class that moves you,” Grant says.

Antoinette Sparte of Oakland has been participating for three years with co-workers.

“It is so invigorating, and it's very energetic and the music selection is so inspiring, it just makes you want to move,” Sparte says. “Not to mention the feeling I have after doing Zumba. I feel good. It's also conveniently located in the building I work in.”

Sparte says you can work out according to your ability.

“If you are skeptical or on the fence about exercising, I would definitely say try it,” she says.

Zumba Fitness puts Denise Esposto of Wilkins in a good mood.

“It is such a wonderful workout,” Esposto says. “In our class, we have a multicultural group with people of different ages from different cultures. I go faithfully. I call my classmates my ‘Zumba buddies.' I have taken a lot of different exercise classes over the years, but nothing compares to Zumba.”

Zumba Fitness is a stress reliever, says Fest, who also is a certified instructor.

“I hate to miss class,” Fest says. “I just love it. I love the music. I love the moves, and I believe being trained in it helps me understand more about it. It's my escape from everything.”

Catherine “Cat” Brennan teaches Zumba in Penn Hills and Plum. It has helped her lose weight.

“When you are watching people doing Zumba, you see how much fun they are having,” says Brennan, who is in her seventh year teaching. “And people who love Zumba will go to anything that is Zumba related, like this nightclub series.

“It is the only workout I have stuck with,” Brennan says. “I hate to exercise, and I don't feel like I am exercising with Zumba. I have lost weight and have been able to keep it off.”

Charla Pettis Murphy, a licensed Zumba instructor at Fullbody Fitness in Brentwood, tailors workouts to her students. The cost for a class at Fullbody Fitness is $10 for 55 minutes.

The benefits of Zumba Fitness are universal, because there are classes to accommodate all skill levels, from senior citizens classes to water classes.

“It is for everybody,” Pettis Murphy says. “I remember the first time I tried it. After it was over, I didn't want it to be, and when my students come up to me and say they had so much fun they want more, that makes me feel good, because I know that feeling.”

Check out the Zumba Fitness website, www.zumba.com, for a class near you.

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at jharrop@tribweb.com

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