Yes, Men Attend Zumba!

Derek Crews, Ken Ezzell, and Tony Messina are among a growing number of men who show up regularly to Zumba classes predominantly attended by women.

Derek Crews, Ken Ezzell, and Tony Messina never heard of the Zumba dance fitness craze until it was already wildly popular in Philadelphia and New York City. But the trio is among a growing number of men who show up regularly to Zumba classes predominantly attended by women.

These men say they keep returning to Zumba classes because they get a great workout. It doesn’t feel less like exercise because Latin dance steps are incorporated instead of standard aerobic fitness moves. And it’s all done to mostly world music, including Salsa, Merengue, Ragaeton (Spanish hip-hop), and a sprinkling of top radio hits.

derekIn March 2011, Derek started taking Zumba classes regularly at Salsa in the Suburbs Dance Studio. Subsequently, he lost 145 pounds, and later became a certified Zumba instructor. However, he feels most proud about his mother, Carol Bryant, joining Zumba: “My mom taking Zumba, dancing in public, is a monumental achievement. She hates to exercise but she likes to dance. So she fooled herself into thinking she’s not exercising.” And now mother and son are hooked. She regularly accompanies him to Zumba classes on Saturdays.

Tony MTony Messina, a singer-songwriter with South Philadelphia roots, said he’s usually the only guy in his Zumba class. He fits right in though, and since starting in January 2011, has made many friends. He wants to stay in shape for public performances and has found Zumba is helpful. He enjoys the flexibility of setting his own pace, deciding when to push himself.

“It’s a great workout. I’d recommend it to anyone,” said Tony, who believes some guys may shy away from Zumba classes because they are generally more self-conscious about dancing in public than women.”

Tony even wrote a song called “Oomba Zoomba” (downloadable on iTunes) and encourages guys to try Zumba at least once. “You might even meet your next girlfriend, wife or the love of your life,” added Tony.

There’s a lot of variation between Zumba classes because some instructors emphasize aerobic fitness while others place a greater focus on dance.

Ken has been taking Zumba classes for the last few months; His wife Polly sparked his interest after she came across a great deal for Zumba classes at Salsa in the Suburbs. Ken, who was coping with a chronic lower back injury, was apprehensive about exercising.

Ken EzzellHowever, the low-impact Zumba classes did not cause him any pain, and he foresees taking Zumba classes with his wife for a long time to come.

“It’s great for us as a couple. We talk about class. We encourage each other. It’s something we both can do together,” he said.

It has also helped the 62-year-old man stay up to date with current music trends. He now enjoys chart-topping music. This ex-marathon runner, stays physically active by taking Zumba classes regularly and foresees taking Zumba for a long time to come.

Nicole Lanciano, who has been teaching Zumba at Salsa in the Suburbs since 2009, says “Zumba was designed for everyone, and is all-inclusive. It doesn’t matter the age of the person, whether or not they have dance experience, or their gender. It actually was created by a man, so maybe if more guys knew this, then they’d come! I do love having men in the class since it raises the enthusiasm and makes the class feel even more like a party!”

Staff Spotlight: Linda Pang, Not Just the Pretty Face Behind the Desk

Julie Berger was planning a trip to France during the summer of 2009, and she needed someone who could teach her dance classes and run the studio. It wasn’t long before Linda Pang’s name came to mind.

-QANBUaT-X9CCb3kwDOqMyEnRb3vXoA3le-L5_uVR0ITo many people, Linda is the friendly face behind the desk. She’s very busy, greeting regular students and inducting new customers, explaining class descriptions and schedules, taking payments and answering calls.

But she is more than just a pretty face behind the desk. She is the stage manager who sets the scene for a smooth experience. “Ever since she started helping out, Linda has gradually learned almost ALL the aspects of running the business,” Julie says with pride. “She even teaches me things. I had no idea just how smart she was.”

Julie says Linda’s attention-to-detail, as well as her creativity and wonderful ideas, have helped contribute to the studio’s success and growth. “No matter what challenge comes her way, she always rises to the occasion and delivers a top-notch experience.”

Linda says the job is challenging and the pace hectic. Sometimes, there’s little down-time and multiple tasks must be handled simultaneously…

“Usually, I’m trying to be five people at once,” Linda says with a laugh.

But she says she can accomplish work quickly and efficiently by anticipating problems and brainstorming potential solutions. In the course of her shift, Linda is greeter, sales representative, and event planner for studio sponsored events. She also handles marketing and social media. She updates the studio’s website regularly; handles ticketing, and creates and distributes promotional material.

And it may be a surprise for some: Linda is also a Salsa instructor.

Linda, who teaches Beginner I and II Salsa, says it’s not uncommon for people to tell her: “I didn’t even know you danced.”

Linda first came to the studio because of her passion for dance. She was the only female student to challenge herself to learn the traditional male role of “leading” for a Salsa Performance.

Linda has been a familiar face at the studio for more than three years and Julie says that many students have given Linda rave reviews. “Linda is talented, effervescent, professional, and motivating,” Jason Connor, one of her students said, after having completed her Beginner II Salsa course.

By understanding the footwork and technique for “leaders” and “followers,” she says she can teach “finesse,” or subtle signals that increase communication between partners on the dance floor. “I can show it better, having been on both sides,” she says.

linda_dancingJulie wants the whole salsa community to know just how grateful she is for Linda’s hard work over these year past few years, “I cannot believe how lucky I was to find her. I’ve heard that the best business people hire people smarter than themselves, and finding and keeping Linda on board for so long, has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. She has worked by my side for hours late into the night, attended every single special event, and really has based her life around the demanding schedule of the company. She has worked as hard as any partner would, and has made a huge contribution. I hope she will continue to prosper with Salsa in the Suburbs, or wherever she may go.”

–Written by Wilford Shamlin III








Salsa Dancing & Weight Loss: 2 Success Stories

Dancing Off the Pounds

Two women who struggled with weight loss have turned to salsa dancing to help them keep off the pounds and they have found a new zest for life along the way. Cathy Moretti and Monika Barman, who take dance lessons at Salsa In The Suburbs Dance Studio, say they feel more energized and more self-confident since shedding unwanted pounds following gastric bypass surgery.

It has changed my life completely. – Cathy Moretti

The two women say dancing has been extremely therapeutic, helping them to cope with personal loss and chronic problems due to their weight. They have widened their circle of friends and found an inner peace on the dance floor.« Continue »

Valentines Day Special: Salsa Dancing Blossoms Into Romance

Julie Powers showed up at Salsa in the Suburbs Dance Studio, wanting to take salsa lessons in anticipation of showing off her new skills aboard a cruise originating in Mexico. Charlie Malone joined the studio three years ago as a way of meeting new people.

Her salsa dancing skills went untapped during the cruise but made it easy to connect back at home with the tall man with light eyes. It was an unlikely pairing. She was ready for a serious relationship, and Charlie was disenchanted with the notion of love. Romance was the last thing on his mind.

Slowly, an attraction for each other grew. Julie asked Charlie to walk her to her car, following a social dance in September. They went on a few more dates and then Charlie, who was reluctant to start anything romantic, was calling her every day. By Halloween, their relationship was official and then in January, Charlie proposed on bended knee, on a downtown street in Media, not too far from the dance studio.

Salsa dancing in the suburbs is helping ignite romantic sparks and couples aren’t waiting on a certain winged matchmaker to intervene.

“We were ready to fly to Vegas two weeks ago to elope,” Charlie admitted.

The two traded glances before Julie cut in, saying in a faraway voice: “It’s unique. It’s like nothing I ever experienced before. I don’t think everybody gets to experience this.”

“I don’t think so, nope,” Charlie said shaking his head.

Brett Brashers was looking for a partner for a Bachata performance class and Kristen Gilia, another student of Salsa in the Suburbs, was also open to the idea. Neither had any idea that their platonic friendship would blossom into a romantic relationship.

Brett and Kristen made their relationship official in December, about three months after the performance class ended.

“The performance class definitely built mutual attraction between us,” Brett says. “We have a lot of fun in the social context of the studio. By partnering and dancing together, people thought we were dating before we actually were. We clicked and great on-floor chemistry translated off the floor too.”

“When we were dancing together,” Kristen says, “it seemed like there was nobody else in the room. We were there for each other, to support each other through the entire process.”

Julie Berger, founder and artistic director of Salsa in the Suburbs, says she isn’t surprised that people are finding partners for more than just dancing. Her studio has a warm, inviting atmosphere that attracts a friendly crowd. Classes are intimate and personal, and dancers are encouraged to mingle and socialize in and outside of the studio.

During dance socials, the cozy red couch in the foyer becomes a central fixture, inviting people to sit and talk and find out more about each other.

Once people are comfortable socially, the studio’s founder says new opportunities for networking and socializing arise. People enjoy dances together, exchange phone numbers and stay in contact through Facebook and other social media.

“I feel privileged to be a part of the birth of serious relationships,” says Julie Berger. “I feel proud to have created an atmosphere in which people feel comfortable being themselves and stepping out of their comfort zones. That’s an extra perk of my already amazing job.”

Chase and Jessica Trinh, who have been together for 11 years and married for nearly three years, wanted to spend more time engaged in an activity that they could enjoy together.

As 2nd Lieutenant platoon leader in the Army Reserves, Chase has been away from home during wedding anniversaries and birthdays due to basic training. Those assignments kept him away from home for up to six months at a time. Come April, he will be overseas on assignment and away during his fourth wedding anniversary.

His prolonged absences have been emotionally challenging for both, but Jessica was all smiles at the in-house “Underground Salsa Party” on January 19. With her husband never far from her side, they both talked about their decision to take salsa lessons together.

“It’s been really fun. Nights like this are magical and I appreciate these moments even more because he was gone.”

Both say they’ve already noticed positive changes in their relationship as result of taking salsa lessons together for the last three months. They have become better listeners, feel more in tune with each other and have learned new ways to be supportive and communicate more clearly.

“I think more couples should do it because it really emphasizes communication,” Chase says. “And a lot of that translates into what we do outside of the dance floor. I can see us doing this when we’re retired and growing old together.”

By Wilford Shamlin
Swindell Plus Publishing