I came out of the womb dancing to Hispanic and Latino music. According to my Bolivian mother, I would wake her up early in the morning to dance to anything from salsa to merengue to contemporary pop.  

Similarly, Zumba has been in my life since I was little. I have always seen it as a great form of cardio for those days when I don’t want to feel like I am working out but I still want exercise. 

When I saw Eppley Recreation Center had a Zumba class, I had to try it. 

I went to their Monday class from 5 p.m. to 5:45 p.m., and after having a dreadful day, this class lifted my spirits. The energy in the studio was vibrant, the steps were easy to follow and the music was poppin’. 

[RecWell’s HIIT30 class will make you feel the burn]

For those who aren’t familiar, Zumba is a fitness program that incorporates Latin and international music with dancing.

It was founded by Colombian dancer and choreographer Alberto “Beto” Pérez in 2001. There were numerous times in elementary school when I would follow Pérez’s class through Zumba DVDs. Nowadays, there are online versions of Zumba that can be done at home. 

At the in-person RecWell class, the instructor, Imani Nokuri, was full of light and spark. Her attitude was sweet, bubbly and inviting  — perfect qualities for teaching a gleeful class like Zumba. 

At the beginning of the class, Nokuri described Zumba as a “celebration of the body.” I couldn’t agree more. Although there were only six people in total, including the instructor, we all danced and fed off of each other’s energy, making it feel like a full house. 

Nokuri danced so gracefully while hyping all of us up. She truly created a comfortable atmosphere and helped those who needed an extra nudge to come out of their shells. 

Everyone was wearing their masks and keeping their distance, but that didn’t stop the class from being interactive. There were sections where one would salsa with a partner and we had a dance circle, all while giving each other a safe amount of space. It wasn’t awkward at all. Everyone was just letting loose and having fun while exercising.

 The music helped create an energetic atmosphere with diverse and lively songs, which is what Zumba is all about. We danced to merengue, cumbia, reggaeton and even K-pop during the cooldown.

The class included a salsa version of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” and I never imagined that song could mesh so nicely with a salsa beat. 

The music had different paces and matched the kind of exercises and dances we were doing. From light salsa side-to-side steps to the “machete” step in cumbia  — which includes a slight squat and then a turn  — to aerobic knee to elbow moves. 

In the past I have attended Zumba classes that have really intricate dances, and I would have to attend two or three classes to nail them down. The moves in this class were rigorous enough to get a good cardio workout, but they were easy to follow and enjoy. There is a lot of jumping, but all moves have low or no impact options. You can take the hop out of most steps if needed. 

Additionally, you do not need to be a good dancer to do this class. It’s all about moving around, making an effort and sending good vibes. 

[RecWell’s BodyPump class turns weights into a dance party]

This class is perfect for people who want to try Zumba because it is still upbeat but not overwhelming for a first-timer. 

I also loved the cooldown. It was on the longer side but it definitely helped give my legs and arms the stretch they deserved. 

Nokuri finished the cooldown with one last stretch and said, “Now give yourselves a big hug.” Then, she congratulated us for celebrating our bodies by pushing through the workout. 

This reminded me to be grateful for my body and that life isn’t meant to be taken so seriously all the time. 

I recommend this class for anyone seeking a cardio workout while also tapping into artistic expression. Expose yourself to different music, explore how you can express your style through dance and try it out!