Zumba: Dancing for fun and fitness

Grace Heitman, left, and Brenda Leliefeld have been participating in Zumba for just over a year. They started co-teaching a high-energy class in October. (Press photo by Molly Moser)


By Molly Moser

In keeping with a trend that has swept across 140,000 locations in 185 countries, a pair of Guttenberg women have begun teaching a Zumba exercise class. Zumba fuses fitness, entertainment and culture into an exhilarating dance-fitness experience.

Grace Heitman and Brenda Leliefeld were introduced to Zumba through a class taught in Guttenberg by Melanie Gast. Gast taught for nearly a year before moving out of town. “We didn’t want to lose it, so we went to training in LaCrosse,” said Leliefeld. 

At the end of September, the dancing duo traveled across state lines to learn about writing routines, teaching good form, and basic wellness. “It was a full day of very intense training,” said Heitman. She estimated 50 to 60 students received the training that day.

“Zumba is a Latin-inspired dance-fitness class,” Heitman explained. Steps are taken from salsa, merengue, reggaeton, and other classic dances. The number one goal, Heitman says, is to have fun – but in the process, participants get a sweat-inducing, breathless cardio workout. The class is open to anyone in high school or older. “You don’t have to know how to dance to join in,” emphasizes Heitman.

Music ranges from Latin to country to top 20 hits. Whatever the genre, driving world rhythms and upbeat melodies blend with easy-to-follow choreography for a total body workout. 

Heitman and Leliefeld are members of the Zumba Instructor Network, which allows them to receive new music and dance materials monthly from the global brand Zumba Fitness. Inspired by song, the two plan to gradually introduce their own choreography into the class.

Fourteen million people around the world currently participate in Zumba. About 20 of them gather in Guttenberg for Heitman and Leliefeld’s class, which meets at Guttenberg Municipal Hospital on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 6:00 to 6:50 a.m. and on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 5:15 to 6:15 p.m. Participants can pay per class or sign up for a four-week session at a time. 

As class ends, students pack up their things and call out, “See you tomorrow!” A first-time student says with a smile, “I’ll be back!” A few students stick around for an optional extra session with Leliefeld. She brings kettle bells and leads those who stay in various squats, crunches, and lifting light weights. 

The reaction to Heitman and Leliefeld’s Zumba class has been overwhelmingly positive. They’ve acquired quite a following in the few weeks they’ve been teaching. Even students who admit to thinking they can’t dance turn up night after night (or morning after morning) to step in unison across the floor. It’s getting easier, they say. Once lost in the music, it’s not hard to dance like no one’s watching. 

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