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An uplifting rhythm

Posted: March 12, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: March 12, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Rosa Morana, 85, enjoys the Zumba class at the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center on a recent Friday.

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Pat Webb is a senior citizen who doesn’t let her age hold her back from doing the fun and exciting things she used to do when she was younger. Her exercise regime includes a new form of dance fitness called Zumba.

“It’s a party,” Webb said. “This is my attitude. I’m 64, but when I do Zumba, I’m 46.”

Every Friday, seniors meet at the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center in Newhall for Diane Hedrick’s Zumba Gold Fitness class. The Latin-inspired dance class is designed as an introductory session into the fitness movement and creates an environment of fun and wellness for all who attend.

What is Zumba?

Zumba is an interactive fitness class that combines many Latin dance styles — such as salsa, merengue, reggaeton and samba — with creative exercise movements.

“Zumba originated in Colombia by Alberto ‘Beto’ Perez back in the ’90s,” Hedrick said. “He taught aerobics, and he forgot his tape one day, so he went and got a tape that he would usually use to dance with from his car. He came in, and, instead of an aerobics class, he taught them how to salsa, rumba and cha-cha. The members of the class said that they didn’t want aerobics anymore and only wanted more Zumba.”

The energized music combined with the faster style of dance transformed the aerobics class into a vibrant workout.

“I love the Latin music and dancing aspect because it doesn’t feel like exercise,” Webb said. “I thought I actually couldn’t do it and
I was very apprehensive at first, but after the first class I was hooked.”

Zumba benefits

The high-intensity dance class offers more than just a unique exercise experience, Hedrick said. It also provides health advantages.

Each class is comprised of 45 minutes of continuous exercise that builds slowly, peaks with intensity and slows to its end.

“It brings down your cholesterol, has cardio benefits, improves blood pressure over time and helps with your balance,” Hedrick said. “You get a great cardio workout, while toning muscles, too.”

Zumba not only provides the body with added benefits, but also gives its members something to look forward to each week by providing a fun environment that’s more of a party rather than a workout. 

“It’s the most uplifting exercise program I have ever been a part of,” Webb said. “And I tell everybody about it.”

Exercise and dance

Hedrick has a professional background as a dancer and choreographer. Her resume includes past employment at Radio City Music Hall, with Broadway companies, Vegas shows, television, Disney World and Universal Studios.

She was asked to take over the Senior Center’s Zumba class four months ago. Her passion for fitness and dance found a match
with the class. She has seen new members joining every week.

“I’ve danced my whole life, and one day, while taking a yoga class, I saw this other class and wondered what it was,” Hedrick said.
“It was Zumba, and after taking the class I instantly fell in love. It’s so much fun, and it doesn’t feel like you’re working out. I stumbled upon it, and I said I had to do it. I looked at a lot of other classes and learned how to teach it.”

At the Senior Center, Hedrick teaches Zumba Gold. It’s designed as an introductory course for beginners who are not used to exercising while bringing the same Latin style and music that Zumba is known for. However, the veteran seniors have opportunities to do more and are encouraged to push themselves and their dance by going at their own pace, Hedrick said.

“When you first talk about it, everyone thinks they can’t do it,” said Janice Grice, a Zumba veteran. “But it doesn’t matter. You don’t have to worry about how uncoordinated you are.”

Get involved

The idea of a dance fitness class doesn’t always sound enticing to those looking for a new exercise program. Some are discouraged because of the possibility of being embarrassed or think they can’t do the movements effectively, Hedrick said.

“Most of the time, I’m concentrating on what I’m doing, but I’ll look around to see if I’m doing this right,” said Carolyn Heitmann, a Zumba participant. “When you look around the class, everyone is approximating the moves that Diane does. There are a lot of variations, but it’s all okay. You do whatever you can do and how fast you can do.”

Armida Brooks, who carpools with friends to the class every Friday, encourages those even a little interested to not be afraid and try Zumba.

“I love the exercise,” Brooks said. “I was taking a line-dancing class, and I was asked if I wanted to join Zumba. From then on, I have loved it. It’s something you look forward to.”

Hedrick said the Zumba exercise routine is fun.

“The thing about Zumba is that it really embraces,” Hedrick said. “It doesn’t matter your fitness level, age, your body shape, or anything else. It’s just a party. Everyone loves it. If it’s in your blood to dance you’ll love this class.”

Hedrick’s Zumba Gold Fitness Class meets on Fridays from 3:30 to 4:15 p.m. at the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center. All ages are welcome and a donation fee of $3 per class is required.

For more information regarding Zumba and the other classes Hedrick teaches can be found at: www.zumbawithdiane.com. 

The Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center is located at 22900 Market St., Newhall and can be contacted directly at (661)255-1588.

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