Jennifer Lopez is a fan of this workout

Hugely popular among the celebrities, Zumba is now what aerobics was to the 1980s, minus the leotards and terrycloth head band.

But to say that this Latin-inspired routine is just another dance workout is underplaying its influence, because for most of its fans, Zumba is a lifestyle.

It has its own international convention where Zumba instructors and fans dance for hours and even days. It ropes in musicians like Pitbull and Wyclef Jean to compose some of the songs. Zumba even has its own coveted line of merchandise and dancing gear and Nintendo Wii and XBox programmes to dance to at home.

For Deno Au Yew Jung, 31, Zumba fitness instructor and one of the country's pioneers in this discipline, the only reason why it hadn't exploded here earlier was because of licensing issues.

"Before early this year, Zumba could only be learnt in Zumba-certified centres and there are just a handful of those. But in January, the market opened up and now, a certified instructor can teach anywhere.

"Singapore has 150 certified instructors while Malaysia has around 50 and I expect the numbers to grow," he says.

Dance of fitness

In a sense, Zumba is dancing. But while other dance routines are confined to a genre or style - hip-hop, salsa, flamenco, merengue, belly dancing - Zumba is a mixture of everything, which makes it addictive and appealing.

"Who needs one style when you can have all?" Au says.

Singer Jennifer Lopez (pictured, left) is a huge fan. Songs like On The Floor and I'm Into You have different styles infused into them that's typically Zumba.

In fact, the singer, known for her impeccable dance moves, told Shape magazine that women should "join a Zumba class".

Actress Emma Watson does Zumba in university and singer Jordin Sparks credits her weight loss to Zumba classes. Actress Vivica A. Fox was into Zumba in its early days, way before it hit mainstream exercise front.

"I think the big plus point for Zumba is that it doesn't feel like you are working out. In fact, the whole idea is for you to have fun and enjoy the rhythm of the music. Workout is Zumba's advantage, not the main point

"That's the thing about exercise and gyms. Exercise has become a routine and it is boring. You go to the gym, warm up and do your cardio. Why does exercise have to be so regimented?" he asks.

"With Zumba, it's about having a good social circle, dancing with friends and family. Forget exercising, this is about having a good time. Zumba instructors don't speak in class. They dance, you follow. It's not interactive, but facial expressions like smiles say it all."

Burn, baby burn

Burn, baby burn

Instructor Alex Phang, 26, who has been teaching Zumba Fitness for two years, says although there are a lot of other dance programmes, nothing matches Zumba in variety and intensity.

"You burn around 600kcal an hour, depending on the intensity which can be increased and reduced, depending on the class."

For restaurateur Grace Wong, 36, Zumba helped her shed excess weight after she delivered her baby a few years ago.

"Having a baby and juggling business was stressful so I joined Zumba to de-stress and I ended up liking it so much that I am now an instructor. I have lost the 15kg excess weight.

"It's easy, fun and helps me tone my post-baby body," she says.

"Zumba is like freestyle dance and it's so enjoyable to do. That's why people keep coming back," Phang says.

Zumba party

Au, Wong and Phang are part of a group organising a large-scale Zumba party next month to introduce Zumba Fitness to the public. They are hoping to get dance enthusiasts from all over the country to learn about Zumba or even make it a career.

"They can find out about Zumba courses and teach it where they live. Zumba doesn't need to be city-centric," Au says.

The event, to be held on June 16, is a three-hour Zumba class for participants. There is a master class for instructors too. International instructor Cassie Blazer will be in town for the event, bringing her funky, original choreography.

"We want to attract more people to learn Zumba and show them how fun and healthy it can be," Wong says.

"It's time for people to stop working out and start enjoying the party. With a fun way to exercise, I think people will want to make time for it. You don't even have to drill how important exercise is for their health," she says.

Five simple steps

Five simple steps

1. Front and Back Mambo With African Arms: The back and front movement tones and strengthens thigh and calf muscles. For better benefit, move the arms.

2. Beto Shuffle: Named after the founder of Zumba, this move involves side to side slide and you can increase the intensity by doing double or single repetition. It gives a full body workout including the core muscles.

3. Belly Dance: The camel walk and twist work the hips and the waist and is perfect for women who always want to tone these parts.

4. Merengue: Move the hips and legs to the sides, just like the merengue dance. Good for the hips.

5. Cumbia: From Colombia and Panama, Cumbia is a jovial, light-hearted dance that works the legs.

Let the music move you

In the mid 1990s, fitness instructor Alberto "Beto" Perez, went to teach an aerobics class and forgot his traditional aerobics music.

So he improvised using his own mix of music from tapes he had in his backpack. They are mostly salsa and merengue music he grew up with.

Spontaneously, he created a new kind of dance fitness, one that focuses on letting the music move you, instead of counting reps.

In 2001, Beto brought his new dance fitness style to Miami, Florida, and, through a student, met entrepreneurs Alberto Perlman and Alberto Aghion. They formed an alliance and created a business, calling it Zumba Fitness.

They trademarked the word Zumba and the rest is history.

(Source: www.zumba.com)

Types of Zumba

Zumba Fitness

Classes feature exotic rhythms. Zumba for everyone set to high-energy Latin and international beats.

Zumba Gold

It takes the Zumba formula and modifies the moves and pacing to suit the needs of the active older participants.

Zumba Toning

Combines targeted body-sculpting exercises and high-energy cardio work with Latin-infused Zumba moves to create a calorie-torching, strength-training dance fitness party.

Aqua Zumba

Integrating the Zumba formula and philosophy with traditional aqua fitness disciplines, Aqua Zumba blends it all together into a safe, challenging, water-based workout.

Zumbatomic

Designed exclusively for kids aged 4 to 12, Zumbatomic classes are rockin', high-energy fitness-parties packed with specially choreographed, kid-friendly routines and all the music kids love.

Zumba in the Circuit

Half an hour of high-octane, Latin-inspired dance fitness moves combined with circuit training and a series of strength exercises at timed intervals.

Zumba Sentao

Chair-based choreography to strengthen, balance and stabilise your core, and step up your cardio work in a new way.

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