Zumba has been around for almost two decades, but it seems as if interest in it has skyrocketed in the last few years, and Hoboken is holding its own.
Here’s a Zumba 101 in case you’ve been living on another planet: A fitness program involving dance and aerobics, Zumba was founded in the 1990s by Colombian dancer and choreographer Alberto “Beto” Perez.
It incorporates a wide range of dance traditions, including hip-hop, soca, samba, salsa, meringue, mambo, belly dancing, cumbia, flamenco, chacha, reggaeton, bhangra, axé, tango, and even martial arts, squats, and lunges.
Susan Pascale is a Zumba instructor at Club H at 110 Sinatra Drive.
“It’s spread like wildfire,” Pascale says. “You don’t have to know how to dance to do it, and in an hour class you can burn over 400 calories. It’s a great cardio workout.”
Pascale has been dancing since she was two. When her mother saw her dancing, she took her to dancing school, where Pascale studied ballet, tap, and jazz.
“Zumba uses various basic styles with international music,” Pascale says.”You can take the class around the world and offer them a taste of different dances.”
If you’re a jock or a fitness freak who isn’t comfortable dancing, don’t worry. “You don’t need a dance background,” Pascale says. “You just follow the instructor’s feet.”
Though there are more women than men in most classes, Zumba is for everyone: Zumba Gold is for older people. Zumba Toning uses toning sticks (light hand-weights). Aqua Zumba takes place in a swimming pool. Zumba Circuit is dance combined with circuit training (resistance and aerobics), and Zumbatomic is for kids.
Pascale’s advice? Get your cross trainers and get to work. “You don’t know unless you try,” she says. “Start out with an open mind.”
Over on Willow Avenue, Kelly Wadler teaches Zumba at Work it Out Fitness Studio. She, too, has a dance background. A dancer since age 9, she graduated from Hofstra University with a BFA in theater performance.
By her own admission, she has had self-esteem issues resulting from a constant struggle with weight. But since she has been teaching Zumba, she’s lost a whopping 30 pounds—and counting. “I refound my love of dance through Zumba,” she says.
“Women, in particular, love Zumba because it is a way to let go and release,” Wadler says. “It becomes very cathartic for women to dance it all out, whether it’s a stressful day or kids at home.”
Its artistry is another plus. “It’s a different type of exercise,” Wadler says. “It has the added component that you can do your own moves and express yourself through dance.”
Work it Out Fitness Studio hired Wadler despite the fact that she was a little overweight at first and prides itself on being welcoming and nonthreatening.
It was just that when I visited on a Monday evening to watch Kelly do her thing. It’s a compact space with feminine colors, and it had a distinctly female-friendly feel, as women of all shapes and sizes gathered for what was obviously a Monday-night ritual.
The lights were dimmed in the workout room, which was packed. The music was loud, and I could feel the beat under my feet. It’s truly a thrilling exercise—fast, rhythmic, beautiful to watch, and a terrific workout. It’s clear that Wadler has developed a loyal following.
“I get to know the clients so well,” she says. “It’s never intimidating for them.” She tells them not to worry if they are not coordinated. “It’s about having fun,” she says. “You can dance to your own groove. Keep moving and you’ll catch on. When you get to learn the steps, it is more fun than discouraging.”
As an instructor, she says she has to give 110 percent. Then, “the students will give 70 percent. If I give only 70 percent, the students will give 40 percent.”
Her “partyesque” style helps students give their all. “Dancing to music with people feels like going out to the bar with a bunch of people you like,” she says.
Though her classes attract mainly women, she welcomes men. “If the music is super girlie,” she says, “a man might say he can’t take that type of class, but a certain type of man who is sure of himself can dance with a bunch of women.”
One of those men is Matt Buoncuore. And he’s an unlikely Zumba enthusiast. A 62-year-old former Hoboken firefighter, he travels from Morristown, sometimes seven days a week, to take classes at Hudson Athletic Club
He said a woman friend kept encouraging him to go. “I went one day and fell in love with it,” he says. “I don’t like to run or bike, and it’s very good cardio.”
He admits that his men friends give him a hard time: “The guys bust my chops, but it’s friendly ribbing.”
He’s one of the oldest in a class of mainly women, ages 20 to 40. “But I feel comfortable,” he says. “There’s no pressure.”
And you can’t beat the fitness benefits. “In an hour you sweat like you wouldn’t believe,” Buoncuore says. “People think it’s not hard, but it’s truly a hard workout. If you do it right, it pinpoints certain muscle groups.”
Though a Hoboken native, Buoncuore retired in Morristown. “The mileage piles up,” he says, “but I love it that much to make the sacrifice.”—Kate Rounds
Club H Fitness
110 Sinatra Drive
Hudson Athletic Club
130 Washington St., Ste. 401
Work it Out Fitness Studio
603 Willow Ave.