In the last few years the dance fitness sensation Zumba has taken hold and gained popularity in Harare. Zumba combines aerobics and dance to form one fabulous and fun workout. Last month I tried my first Zumba class. Despite not being a member of Body Active Gym I was able to join in after paying $5 at the door. Our instructor announced herself with a friendly “Hi, everybody!” and from the cheers and whoops from the crowd I could see that she has a few regular fans. Straight away the music began and everyone followed Chenai as she jumped, stepped, strutted and shook her way around the floor.
We began with a dynamic warm up and then dived straight into the high-intensity dance workout. I quickly got swept up by the energy in the room, and was highly encouraged when, at the end of the third song, the woman next to me gave me a high five and yelled “yeah girl! Shake it!” The atmosphere was friendly and totally unthreatening, and moves are repeated throughout, so even as a newcomer, I found that it is easy enough to pick up if you can get over your self-consciousness. Halfway through the class Chenai switched out with another instructor, Bernard. They each had their own style and I enjoyed the variety. I found myself smiling the whole way through and enjoying every minute. Only at the end did I realise how exhausted I was – as Bernard told me afterwards, Zumba is “exercise in disguise”!
Chenai and Bernard both trained in Johannesburg in 2012, when Zumba started to really take off here, but they tell me that it is now possible to do the instructor training course here in Harare. Bernard and Chenai teach around 12 classes a week, each attended by 20–30 people. Classes incorporate many types of dance and music, from Latin- American inspired tunes, to Afro jazz, to pop, to hip-hop. The class I attended was made up of people of all different ages, shapes and colours, and Bernard thinks that this diversity comes about because Zumba provides “something for everyone”. He believes that it is unlike anything else that you get in Zimbabwean gyms and people enjoy participating in a unique and entertaining experience where you can meet people that you wouldn’t usually, listen to music you wouldn’t normally, and move your body in ways that would ordinarily make you blush. Both instructors agree that Zumba is the place to leave your worries at the door- where their clients can “ditch the workout and join the party!”
In my pursuit to find out more about Zumba I spoke to Amy Mons, who organises the afternoon activities at the French School in Vainona, where Zumba has been taught for two years now. She tells me that boys and girls of all ages enjoy the Zumba class. Zumba is a fun way for the children to get some exercise, develop their coordination, and to build their confidence. The students love working out to songs by One Direction and Justin Bieber and at the end of the year the Zumba group puts on a show. Amy tells a sweet story where, one afternoon, it began to rain and all the students who had been doing outside activities had to move inside the hall, where Zumba was about to start. All 78 students who were staying for sport that afternoon joined in one big Zumba class that lasted an hour and a half, with some of the teachers joining in, too!
So, if you’re looking for something new and fun to do, I suggest you grab a sweat towel, don your dancing shoes and join a Zumba class today.
Image Credit: Zumba class at Body Active Gym in Borrowdale