February 8, 2012

Zumba: A new style of exercise

You don’t need to know how to Merengue to shake it in senior Rachel Clark’s Zumba fitness class. Anyone, with any experience level, can come enjoy this new way to exercise on Monday nights and Friday mornings.
Zumba is a Latin dance-inspired workout that aims at keeping the moves upbeat and fun. Clark was drawn to these aspects of it.
“I love ballroom and I love exercise, and Zumba is the fusion of the two of them,” Clark said. “If I had been maybe ten years older and from Latin America, I would have invented this.”
Upon first hearing about Zumba, though, Clark was not very interested. It was not until two summers ago that she became hooked on it. Clark had convinced her sister to take a class with her in a small town church’s meeting room, where the instructor was the pastor’s wife. Thankfully, the sisters were not put off by this seemingly odd setting.
“We fell in love with [Zumba],” Clark said.
After continuing to take classes for the rest of the summer, Clark realized her desire to become an instructor.
“[Zumba] is something that I just want to keep doing for the rest of my life,” Clark said. “I got certified to learn more about it. I wanted to know it better, I wanted to be able to do it better.”
The process of becoming an instructor only requires one day and a fee of around $200. The morning begins with a master class, followed by a tutorial in which prospective instructors learn the four basic Zumba steps. Then come workshops on learning about the company itself and learning how to create choreography. The day concludes with another master class.
Once Clark became a certified instructor, she wanted to share Zumba with Knox.
“When I was abroad last year, I had found out that [Knox] had hired a Zumba instructor, and I was really excited that Knox had jumped on the Zumba bandwagon, but I was really upset that [the instructor] wasn’t me,” Clark said. After speaking with Student Senate President Gordon Barratt and Fitness Center Director Melissa Joseph, Clark signed on as a Zumba instructor at Knox.
After beginning classes this past fall, Clark has had a steadily high level of participants, but, as of yet, has not received payment from Knox. While Zumba instructors generally do receive a good amount of compensation, it is not clear what Clark’s paychecks will be.
Clark, however, does not seem very affected by her payment.
“I don’t even really care about the money that much,” Clark said. “It’s an awesome part-time job to have. I get to exercise while getting paid and make friends.”
Part of Clark’s job is to choreograph new dances. Music often serves as a basis for inspiration.
“If I have a song I really like, and think my students would like,” Clark said, “that’s when I’ll come up with my own [choreography].”
Creating new dances, though, is one of the bigger challenges of being a Zumba instructor.
“The very first time I do a new song is always hard. I don’t know it that well, [the students] don’t know it, so they don’t really like it that much yet,” Clark said. “It’s really imperative to Zumba that you keep bringing in fresh songs but the very first time is always hard.”
Yet, on the whole, being a Zumba instructor has proved to be a highly rewarding experience.
“There are days that I go into my class, and I’m gearing up for it. I’m excited, but I’m also tired. But at the end of the class, every single time, I’m always so happy I did it,” Clark said.
Working with students has proved to be an ideal first job for Clark.
“I enjoy when students really, really like a song, so much that they remember it and know it almost as well as I do,” Clark said. “Everything involved with the people who come to my class is the most fun part.”

Chelsea Embree
Chelsea Embree is a senior majoring in creative writing and minoring in art history. She previously served as co-mosaic editor and as an arts and features reporter for TKS. During the summer of 2013, she served as a content intern at The St. Louis Beacon. Chelsea has studied under former Random House copy chief Sean Mills and taught writing as a teaching assistant for First-Year Preceptorial. An avid blogger, she has written extensively about youth in St. Louis and maintains a lively poetry and nonfiction blog on Tumblr. She is also the director of communications for Mortar Board and co-president of Terpsichore Dance Collective.


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