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Zumba fuses fun with exercise – Dance workout feeds mind, body and soul

Zaina Al-Ghabra
Zaina Al-Ghabra

Let’s Zumba! Grooving to the beats of salsa, flamenco, and merengue music feels more like a dance party than a workout, which is exactly what makes Zumba so popular and is now becoming the latest craze in Kuwait.

Zumba is a dance fitness program created by Colombian dancer and choreographer Alberto “Beto” Perez during the 1990s. Zumba, a trademark owned by Zumba Fitness, LLC, involves dance and aerobic elements.

The Latin-inspired dance workout is one of the most popular group exercise classes in the world. The high-energy classes are set to upbeat music and feature choreographed dance numbers that you might see in a nightclub. You don’t need to be a great dancer to feel welcome in a Zumba class. With the tag line, “Ditch the Workout, Join the Party,” the classes emphasize moving to the music and having a good time, no rhythm required.

There are several different kinds of Zumba classes, from Aqua Zumba workouts to classes like Zumba Toning that incorporate weights for additional calorie burning and strength training. There are even Zumba classes for kids. Zumba is for all ages, men or women.

Working up a sweat in the 60-minute classes burns an average of 369 calories — more than cardio kickboxing or step aerobics. You’ll get a great cardio workout that melts fat, strengthens your core, and improves flexibility.

Zaina Al-Ghabra, a certified Zumba instructor, events planner and host, in this interview, talks about her passion as she takes us to the colourful and wonderful world of Zumba, her journey, the health benefits of Zumba, how Zumba is becoming Kuwait’s latest craze and the challenges of keeping the Zumba passion alive on this part of the world.

Question: What is Zumba?

Answer: Zumba is a dance fitness program that involves 70% Latin rhythms and 30% international rhythms which include anything from Middle Eastern, Bollywood, Pop, Electro, Oldies and so forth. So a 60-minute class typically involves 70% Latin rhythms and 30% international.

Q:  What makes Zumba different from other workouts?

A: Zumba is fun and addictive. Once you get the hang of it, you never want to do anything else. It’s the type of workout you crave to go to because it feeds your mind, body and soul and fills it with happiness.

Q:  When did you get interested in Zumba?

A: My love for Zumba started in the summer of 2007. I had just left Kuwait and went back to school at the University of Oklahoma. I was a fresh gym go-fer at the time but I enjoyed to run because I could turn my music on really loud and run to the music. So I’m walking into the gym to go running and as I enter, the first thing everyone passes is the group fitness studios. There were two studios stuck to each other, each with a completely transparent glass wall, so you can see everything going on inside the class. I remember hearing great music Sean Paul was playing at the time and I love that kind of music, and I see a bunch of girls dancing, laughing, having a great time.

Curious about the class is, I see a huge banner that says ZUMBA on it. At this point my ears go up like a curious dog and I just walk in the class. I went to the back row of course and within one minute of being in there, I knew I was in love. It really was a love at first minute type of feeling. I was dancing and having such a good time! My instructors Donna and Tiffany were co-teachers and they were both amazing. After that class, I became a regular, I didn’t miss a single Zumba class and I was always right there in the front. If anything, I would sometimes do two Zumba classes in a row. I started branching outside of my gym and going to Zumba classes all over Oklahoma. It was just that great of a feeling and an even better workout

Q:  What is it about Zumba that made you hooked to it? Why not other physical fitness exercises or routines?

A: Zumba is fun and because it’s fun, it’s addicting. Going to a Zumba class never feels like a workout or a chore because it’s something you want to do. If you feeling down, Zumba is the best medicine.

Q:  What were the challenges that you have to hurdle when you  were starting to learn Zumba?

A: Honestly, I didn’t have many challenges with Zumba. It was like second nature to me. It took me five minutes in the class to know that I found something I truly love.

Q:  What’s your most memorable Zumba experience?

A: Every experience in Zumba is memorable to be honest. But I would say my most memorable experiences have been at the Zumba Instructor Convention in Orlando. This takes place each year and is four days of intensive trainings, classes and massive Zumba events with world renowned instructors.

Q:  What made you decide to bring your own style of Zumba to Kuwait?

A: I didn’t bring my own style of Zumba to Kuwait. I wanted to bring the real Zumba to Kuwait. Zumba abroad is packing with energy and packed with people of different ages, nationalities and fitness backgrounds, all coming together. I wanted to show people in Kuwait what Zumba energy really is by bringing all these special guests to share their class and their expertise with the people of Kuwait.

Q:  When did your Zumba ‘advocacy’ start? Inspiring people to join Zumba?

A: The second I became an instructor and realized I was touching people’s lives and helping them deal with certain life struggles. One memorable moment was when I was covering another instructor’s class and noticed a man in the front row who was clearly trying so hard throughout the entire class. At the end of the class, I tried to tell him he did a good job, but he seemed to ignore me. He came up to me a few minutes later with a message typed on his phone, thanking me for such a wonderful class. That was when I realized he was deaf and couldn’t hear me trying to commend him on a job well done. That moment made me realize how powerful Zumba really is.

Q:   What tips do you usually give to your new students in Zumba?

A: I tell them to just let go and have a good time. Not to worry about getting the steps right. I also tell them to make sure they attend at least three classes in the same week before deciding whether they can do it or not. Some people are intimidated when they can’t get the steps right immediately. What they don’t realize is the steps and quite universal and repetitive.

Q:  Have you set up your own Zumba group or club or are you organizing Zumba classes on your own?

A: I have my own Zumba classes at various gyms in the country. I hope to one day expand with my Zumba, but for now, I am enjoying teaching at gyms and organizing these events.

Q:  Who can join Zumba classes? Does it have an age limit?

A: Anyone can join Zumba. There are actually different specialties to suite different people. You had Zumba Kids and Kids Jr. You have Zumba Gold for older individuals. Aqua Zumba which is in a pool. Zumba toning which uses light weights. Zumba Step and more. However, if someone is entering a regular Zumba class, it is formatted to accommodate all levels. That’s Zumba’s motto, anyone should be able to enter your class and follow along.

Q:  What health benefits do we get from Zumba?

A: Happiness. That’s the best health benefit that is directly linked to improving one’s life in many way.

Q:  How popular is Zumba in Kuwait? Has it become the latest craze?

A: Zumba is actually quite popular in Kuwait believe it or not. I wouldn’t say it’s the latest craze, but it definitely has its following and it’s growing by day.

Q:  What’s your biggest challenge when you’re introducing Zumba here in Kuwait?

A: My biggest challenge is probably reaching out to the people who don’t believe that Zumba is a workout but I think that’s slowly changing now.

Q:  Aside from your regular Zumba classes in the health club, do you also organize some Zumbathon regularly?

A: I organize Zumba Master Class Events. This basically means the class is 90 minutes instead of 60 minutes and typically involves a guest or special instructor. Therefore, I am actively aiming to bring top instructors from all over the world to come and share their energy with us.

Q:  Have you launched any project promoting Zumba to the community?

A: I simply promote my classes and the events that I organize.

Q:  What are the most common Zumba injuries? How can these be avoided?

A: I would say the most common injuries are knee injuries, however, those injuries are not necessarily caused by Zumba. Most people already have these issues when they come to a Zumba class. They need to be aware that they can still attend the class, however, everyone must know his or her body and know where their limits are.

Q:  How can one become a certified Zumba instructor? What are the steps/procedures?

A: Log onto Zumba.com and find a Zumba training near you. That’s all it takes. Attend the training and you’re automatically certified. The challenge is building a class and a following.

Q:  What tips can you give to aspiring Zumba instructors?

A: Do it, it will change your life forever.

Q:  What’s your message to the men and women in Kuwait who want to stay fit and healthy?

A: I tell them to find something they love. When they can do that, they don’t have to consciously put in an effort to maintain it. Once they start seeing the benefits of doing what they love, all the other things naturally fall into place. Stay fit and healthy. It doesn’t have to be a chore. Being active is important and you can be active while having fun. Once you’re a part of an active routine, naturally one starts to want to become healthy as well. For me Zumba is my outlet, it allows me to exercise and sweat, dance and have fun all at the same time. When I travel and go on vacation, Zumba is part of that vacation.

I log into Zumba.com and find a class near me. Or often times, I ask other fellow instructors what classes I could possibly attend in that visiting country. For me, it’s not a workout that I have to do. I don’t wake up and say to myself “time to go to the gym now before I start my day.” Instead I wake up looking forward to a new Zumba experience because each individual class and instructor is literally its own experience.Another excellent thing about Zumba is that it’s for all levels. Some women come to move a little, copy some of the moves. Some women come and follow exactly what the instructor is doing. Then there are some women who come and make it very fitness oriented by adding in lots of fitness factors. It all depends on you. Zumba is your dance, your workout; my job is to lead them into that.

Q:  How do you see yourself five to 10 years from now? Where do you think would your Zumba bring you?

A: I still see myself into Zumba and other fitness programs. I will always be a Zumba instructor, but I also have a passion for boxing and yoga. I hope to have a center for women, a place where they can go every day and feel as though they are at home. I want to spread happiness,  one person at a time.


Zaina Al-Ghabra earned her Bachelor’s degree in Advertis-ing/Journalism at the University of Oklahoma, USA. She first ventured into marketing sales before continuing her Master’s degree in Strategic Communications. Upon her return to Kuwait, she worked at the Advertising and Branding Department at the National Bank of Kuwait. Her love and passion for Zumba prompted her to leave the corporate world to focus all her time and energy on organising Zumba classes and hosting events in Kuwait.

A certified Zumba instructor since 2011, she has obtained certifications in Zumba Basic 1, Zumba Basic 2, Zumba Sentao and Zumba Kids/Kids Jr. Aside from the Master Classes she regularly attends in the region, she also attends the Zumba instructor convention annually and attended it in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Among the Zumba Fitness events that she organised were the Zumba Master Class with celebrity guest Marcelino Gebrayel (November 2014), Zumba Master Class with guest Loretta Bates (March 2015).

On Monday, Oct 26, 2015, Zaina is inviting all Zumba enthusiasts to attend the Zumba Master Class with Liana Veda (assistant choreographer to Beto Perez, creator of Zumba) at 7:00 pm at the Palms Beach Club Hotel in Kuwait and have a fun Zumba experience.

By Michelle Fe Santiago

Arab Times Staff

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