Nearing the Pyramid Room at the John Wooden Center Monday afternoon, one can hear loud music that varies from popular hip-hop to lesser-known African beats and Latin rhythms.
The room is filled to maximum occupancy with girls in comfortable dance attire, sweating and smiling as they follow the instructor’s directions.
These girls are in class, taking Zumba. Attendance on Monday reached 80 students.
“Sometimes there’s about 100, but I have to max it out at 80,” instructor Karma Raines said.
A class that started out with about 50 people keeps growing as interest in the workout peaks all around the country.
Zumba is an Latin-inspired exercise mixed with aerobic elements. Its choreography draws from different dance styles including Latin, hip-hop, African and even Bollywood. Participants repeat certain moves as in aerobics classes, but many of the moves are dance moves.
“I like it because it’s a mix of everything,” third-year psychology student Natasha Arastehmanesh said. “I don’t like to pick and choose, so this is convenient. And it’s fun and energizing.”
From celebrities such as Jennifer Hudson and Jennifer Lopez to UCLA students, Zumba has grown in popularity since its accidental invention in the 1990s by Alberto Perez.
It is said he forgot his regular music for his aerobics class and improvised with the music he had in his car. Since he brought Zumba to America, it has become mainstream and gained massive popularity.
The exercise was created on accident, but the workout it provides is fun and entertaining.
Even as a first-timer, first-year psychobiology student Paige Oldham enjoyed Zumba.
“I’ve always wanted to do it because I’ve heard of it before,” Oldham said. “And I loved it. I really did.”
Zumba participants perform various dance and aerobics moves to loud and exciting music. Fast beats energize participants and make the moves feel like more than just dance steps. Zumba makes dancing feel like exercise.
“Being a trained dancer, you don’t really think about the fitness side of dancing,” Raines said.
“I fell in love with it because Zumba has a freedom of movement ““ from the Latin dance it incorporates to the African beats to the hip-hop beats and reggae. As a dancer, I need that eclectic style of teaching.”
Raines teaches Zumba classes at UCLA’s John Wooden Center as well as at Your Neighborhood Studio in Culver City. During the two years Raines has been teaching Zumba, she has seen an increase in attendance overall.
“It’s not your typical Jazzercise: You don’t have to have weight ““ you just come to class, dance and have a good time,” Raines said. “The whole concept is to feel good about yourself and lose yourself in the music.
“And most of us like it simple. We don’t really want to go to the gym. If I can go to a class and sweat and get toned without ever having to lift a weight, I think that’s just great.”