Mosaic / January 22, 2020

Zumba intersects dance and exercise

Zumba participants follow Gwen Wells during her choreographed routine. (Katy Coseglia/TKS)

Not everyone associates a good workout with having fun. Going to the gym might not seem like an ideal Friday night, but dancing at Knox’s offered Zumba classes can feel like one.

“You forget that you’re working out. It’s like going to the right parties with good music, and you’re just dancing and having fun,” said Ravie Boungou, senior and certified Zumba instructor.

While the classes are primarily taught by visiting instructor Gwen Wells, students often take an active role in teaching the class. Boungou and Maggie Cheng, junior, are two such students. While Cheng just became certified in December of 2019, Boungou has been certified since former instructor Jane McGee taught the class.

“Jane was my mentor. She pushed me into the world of Zumba. Since she’s left Gwen’s been amazing,” Boungou said.

Both Boungou and Cheng became active in Zumba their freshman years, aided by their experience in dance. Cheng is involved in studio dance, such as ballet, jazz, tap and contemporary. Boungou has a background in hip hop and traditional tribal dances from different parts of Africa, but after joining the dance program she started ballet and contemporary as well.

“I’ve done dance all my life, so it seemed like a better way to get exercise than just going to the gym and working out,” Cheng said.

While dance has been a huge part of both girls’ lives, they emphasized that a dance background is not needed to join Zumba.

“Left feet, no feet, everyone (is welcome),” Boungou said.

The inclusivity of the activity is a source of pride for both Cheng and Boungou. It is a versatile exercise open to people who aren’t able-bodied. Anyone can modify the movements to fit their needs, and Boungou has knee problems and adjusts the movements sometimes.

“Zumba is what you make it,” Boungou said.

As well, it uses a variety of music, ranging from the traditional Latin to Afro, contemporary to Bollywood. The movements for each song are also authentic to the culture they come from.

Both Boungou and Cheng were able to learn more about Zumba and its history during their training courses they had to complete for their certifications. The day-long class covered basic steps, how to choreograph parts of a song and the basic skills you need to become an instructor.

“It’s an all day thing, but once you’re done, you have your teaching license,” Cheng said.

Along with their certifications, they also have access to a program called the Zumba Instructor Network (ZIN). This gives them resources such as apps, choreography, playlists, practice videos and discounts on Zumba wear. Most notably, they can connect with other instructors in their community and look for jobs. It was through ZIN that Cheng was able to connect to an instructor in her hometown who then offered to mentor her.

“(ZIN is) not necessary to be an instructor, but there’s a lot of ways that it can help,” Cheng said.

While Boungou is saving up for the program, she has built her own community in Galesburg. It was working with Wells and McGee that enabled her to get a job at the YMCA over the summer.

“Even if you don’t have ZIN, (instructors) create their own ZIN,” Boungou said.

As far as the future, both Cheng and Boungou want to continue Zumba for as long as they’re able. Boungou not only wants to continue it for herself, but also to bring Zumba to different communities who can utilize it. As a future educator, she wants to take it to schools.

“It’s an outlet for the students too,” Boungou said.

Zumba is on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 4:30 p.m. in the Mirror Room of the Fitness Center.


Kaitlyn Cashdollar

Tags:  dance gym Zumba

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