Interview with Zumba Teachers Cristiane Machado and Leah Short

Zumba RetreatWhen I was at Anamaya in September 2010 I had the great joy of taking my first Zumba class with Anamaya staff Leah Short, and then to participate in Cristiane’s exhuberant classes during the Zumba retreat. We all sat down on the rocks in Montezuma’s town beach and got to the heart of their passion for teaching Zumba.

H: So you’re both Zumba instructors. Why do you love Zumba?

L: I love Zumba because it’s an opportunity for people to not only exercise but release their inhibitions and shake and get all that stress out and feel good about themselves, feel sexy.

C: Yeah, I like for those reasons and especially because it brings people back to health. Really. Because its not an exercise routine, you don’t feel like you’re exercising, actually I say its exercise in disguise. When you realize an hour has passed and you’ve burned 1000 calories and people get in great shape and be feeling happier about themselves and making their life better, really. That’s the main thing, I think, for us, when we find that so many people start doing it and having that big smile on their face and they come to you and tell you how great they feel and “oh my god, I love this” so, it seems to get people like that.

H: What do you think are some of the main health benefits of Zumba?

C: Well, first of all your circulation, your blood circulation. It really improves the flow of your blood and your lymph; it really brings you a good homeostatic state of mind too. Because your body feels better so when you feel better in your body your mind starts to feeling better, so it’s a whole being benefits, the whole body mind connection that some people have a hard time to find and to understand. But through Zumba somehow everything connects because you start using your whole body. You do feel good. At the end of the class you have all this disposition and energy and actually some people even go from other kinds of exercise cause they feel so good and then they start eating better so it’s a whole, like, holistic, actually kind of thing.

H: Leah, you said something about people losing their inhibitions and feeling sexy. What is it about Zumba that’s different that makes people feel that way instead of any other kind of exercise?

L: I think its cause its not fixed into the ground, you don’t necessarily have to follow a teacher exactly. And you can’t, you know, you shake at different rates, you go up and down at different rates, it’s just much more open. It’s not like you’re doing these solid movements. I mean, you’re shaking and you’re moving and a lot of these moves you could easily just transfer to the bar! And have a lot of fun with it. A lot of people say, you know, I don’t dance unless I’m drunk, You know, And this is a time where people can just be free and feel comfortable and they’re all together and they don’t need anything to help them get to that point of happiness

C: I think literally people find their own flavor. You know, that’s the thing. We give… I say I instruct Zumba, because I show the move but the flavor is yours. It doesn’t, you cannot move like me or her or other person, you’ve got to find your thing. And that’s what I think Leah is saying that brings that sexiness that… you start feeling like, oh, I might not move like her but I have my own thing going on here and explore that. And for woman I think its so important to work that whole, you know, reproduction area.

H: Now you both teach in retreat environments. What’s that like? It’s an opportunity to have someone for the entire week. Maybe they’ve never done Zumba before. What’s your favorite retreat story?

C: Well, to tell the truth this is my very first one. And I am so thrilled because I can see me doing this forever. I love it. And the fact that here were so many people that are there for the first time and they came to experience Zumba. I think its because its safe, the feel safe there. They’re not necessarily in the big gym, and they feel like wow I can really immerse in this and understand what’s going on.

L: I’m in a retreat environment and I have… It’s interesting because it’s a constant transient culture. I don’t have regular people very often; I have new people all the time. It’s really fun! It’s really fun because you get a lot of new people who, right, they come in this environment because they feel safe. And I get a lot of yoga people who are used to the slow movements then all of a sudden they are shaking and they’re moving and its really exciting to see them kind of cross to the other side and do something extremely different.

H: The other side!

Q: Do you remember the first Zumba class that you ever took?

L: Yeah, I do actually. I took it with my Aunt and a bunch of old ladies. And it was great. I was living in Iowa and there was not a lot of Latin culture, there’s not a lot of salsa, merengue, anything like that. And I was feeling without, really. I’d been living in Spain and I came back to finish some studies. My family recommended that I try this class so that I could feel alive again really. And it was amazing. I was instantly hooked!

C: For me it was a Sunday at the gym – I usually don’t go Sundays to the gym but for some reason I had to be there – and I heard the music, it was Latin music, and my heart totally started to jump, like go there! Find what they’re doing! Whatever they’re doing you want to do because its Latin music. And that’s how it was and I fell in love with it instantaneously. It was just once a week class and three years after we have 71 classes in town, so… It does spread out and it’s wonderful. That was my 1st experience. Since then I go to every single class that I can put my feet in.

H: Can you tell me what is the definition of Zumba? How would you describe it?

C: Zumba is a Latin workout with international flavors.

L: Yeah, It’s a Latin inspired exercise class.

C: And you put a little bit of everything. You know. I love Masala Bhangra, I love Indian music, you know, its anything you want. A little bit of everything. Flamenco, tango…

H: So its all to music, and its dance movement inspired…

C: Yes. You’ve got basic steps of the rhythms and you build onto it. So each song has 3 to 4 basic steps. And that’s why it’s catchy, too! That’s why people love it. Because it’s easy to follow. Its nothing complicated, and you can do it. It’s for everyone. I have in my classes in the states people from 13 to 80. It’s beautiful. Guys, couples. It brings moms and daughters together. Three generations I have in my class. It’s beautiful and they are like shaking it. Grandma with the granddaughter. It’s really neat.

L: that’s really neat.

H: Is there anything else you can think of to say about Zumba that I haven’t asked about?

C: Go experience Zumba!

L: Everyone should try it!

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