Reporter: Paul Finnerty
Date online: 15 June 2010
Photo: Paul Finnerty
Instructor Becky Smithies leads the Zumba class
A new fitness craze has hit Rochdale. It’s a class with basic dance steps made simple. It’s simple to follow without explaining what it is. It’s not aerobics and not dance. It’s an exercise class with a Latin twist. It’s zumba.
Zumba has its origins in Colombia where its founder, aerobics instructor Beto Perez, dreamed it up one day when he forgot his aerobics music. He used the tapes he had in his car, which had more of a Latin rhythm to them, and improvised the class using non-traditional aerobics beats.
It was so popular that he did all his classes in this way, and Zumba has since spread all the way through the US and Europe until finally reaching Rochdale.
Classes were started just over a month ago by instructor Becky Smithies, who emphasises that anyone can take part:
“You can just turn up. You don’t need coordination or rhythm, just humour. It’s like a wedding disco. You’re moving constantly. Because you have fun, you put effort in and don’t realise you’re working hard.”
The sessions include lots of hip movements, thrusting and bum-shaking, and the routines keep everyone laughing and smiling throughout.
Becky, 36, only got involved with fitness two and a half years ago, but has since ditched her job in a childrenswear shop and now works full-time as a Zumba, spinning and aerobics instructor.
“I got involved with Zumba earlier this year. I took over a friend’s class. It’s nothing like I anticipated. It’s high energy and fun. They pay me to do something I like.”
The classes are at St.Vincent’s Church Hall, Norden, between 7.30 and 8.30pm and although the group is mainly comprised of women, men are welcome. All ages participate, including Becky’s 68-year-old mother and 15-year-old daughter.
Becky also dragged her sister Tina along at first, but now she loves it.
“I came to support Becky at first but now I enjoy it,” she says. “It doesn’t matter what you’re like, you don’t feel like an idiot. It’s about keeping working.”
At first it was quite a family affair and just 15 participated in the first week, but since then more than 30 have signed up, including Carol Bradshaw, who comes from Failsworth every week to work out. She has been to other fitness classes but says that Zumba is definitely her favourite:
“I’ve been for four weeks and it’s really good fun and good exercise. It’s not too hard but you get sweaty. You feel that you’re working hard. It suits all ranges. Everyone can fit in. The teacher is fantastic.”