Kicking off in Colombia and now making it all the way to Gainesville, Zumba is sweeping the nation off its feet (literally) one dance class at a time.

Zumba combines high-energy, upbeat Latin music, rhythm and moves to form a workout program that is open for people of all ages, shapes and sizes. There is a class for everyone with different levels ranging from Zumbatomic for children to Zumba Gold for seniors.

Just like any workout program, the key to Zumba is to start out small, and in this particular case, concentrate on the instructor’s footwork.

Individuals need no prior dancing experience to attend a class.

“No matter the level of fitness a person is at, there’s still a period of getting comfortable and making the transition of stepping out of yourself and dropping any self-conscious feelings you may have,” said Remy Acosta, a one-year Zumba dancer and soon-to-be instructor. “You’ve just got to feel the music.”

A typical class starts with a few warm-up songs to get everyone pumped up for the workout portion of the class, which usually ranges from eight to 10 songs with each having four to five different steps.

“If you get into it, it doesn’t feel like a workout at all, though,” Acosta said. “You’re just straight-up dancing.”

Even though Zumba fanatics think of the class as a good time rather than a workout, that doesn’t mean they aren’t getting one. A fast-paced hour of Zumba can burn more than 500 calories.

“I mean even for people who are in great shape, it will still bust their butts the first few classes,” Acosta said. “It’s intense, and the sweat starts pouring pretty quickly.”

The main appeal to Zumba is that it’s a great way to exercise while still being able to enjoy yourself. It’s even been coined a “fitness party.”

“If it’s a really good class, you’re having a party in that class,” Acosta said. “People get loud. Sometimes we start hooting and hollering and shouting out until we’re louder than the music. It’s almost like a club environment, except people are sober.”

This highly energetic workout program has become a phenomenon. It’s not unusual for some of the more popular classes in Gainesville to fill up to capacity due to the large number of people who are coming in search of Zumba.

“It’s just so catchy,” Acosta said. “It’s incredible. You get a high from doing it, and it lasts for hours and hours after the class.”

Although it started off primarily among the Latin community, Zumba has opened its doors to all different walks of life.

“You start bringing a bunch of different people together who really enjoy dancing and they bring in their own style of music and culture,” Acosta said. “It’s started to become international and is all over the world now.”

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Acosta warns that it’s easy for someone to get hooked on Zumba and admits that, for him, it only took three or four classes before he was addicted.

“If I go more than three days without dancing like that, I feel off,” Acosta said. “I feel really off. I just want to step into my dancing shoes and into the class.”

Zumba is now taught in over 30 locations in Gainesville alone. Classes are available at the University of Florida Recreational Sports Center, the Gainesville Gym, the Headquarters Library in downtown Gainesville and the Westside Baptist Church, along with many others.

Acosta recommends the Tuesday classes at the Headquarters Library, 401 E. University Ave., at 5:30 p.m. and 7 p.m., and the Saturday morning class at Westside Baptist Church, 10000 W. Newberry Road, at 11:15 a.m.

Both classes are taught by instructor Natasha Lee, who also has classes through Zumba with Natasha, 714 NW 23rd Ave., on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings and Saturday mornings.

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