The old school method of getting a bikini ready bod for the summer used to involve breaking out a dusty old VHS tape, popping it in the VCR and listening to a poofy-haired, tiny shorts-wearing man scream positive affirmations at you through the television set.
But that was then. If performing awkward, antiquated dance moves in your living room wearing day-glow leg warmers isn’t cutting it any more, then it might be time to switch your style up.
The “new” way, ladies and gentlemen, to sculpt a hot bod is zumba.
And zumba ain’t no joke.
To characterize zumba – a fitness regimen that blends Latin grooves and dance moves – as simply a health craze would be a transgression and an inadequate description of the art form.
Zumba is a lifestyle for enthusiasts who shake their hips to the slick sounds of salsa, merengue and other afro-cuban inspired international rhythms. The popularity of zumba dance has exploded in recent years as many are discovering the numerous benefits of this fun, yet challenging, activity.
No one knows this better than Yvette “The Diva” Williams, a certified fitness instructor and sports nutritionist who has been leading high energy zumba sessions throughout the Dayton area for the last two years.
Dayton MostMetro recently sat down with this mother of two for an honest discussion about zumba, music and machismo:
Dayton MostMetro: When did you develop your interest in fitness?
Yvette Williams: I began bodybuilding late…at thirty! I grew up always being unhappy with the way that I looked. I’ve always been a very self conscious person, never really liking the way that I looked. So, at thirty, I decided to do something about it. I was watching the Olympics…and was looking at some videos of track and field. [I was] looking at the bodies and how muscular [the women] were. I saw how beautiful they were. They were attractive and sexy. They didn’t look like men – they looked like shredded, beautiful women. I wanted to look like that.
DMM: How were you introduced to zumba?
Williams: I’ve always had a love for Latin music – especially from being in New York City for as long as I was. I grew up with the authentic Latin music…Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, Mongo Santamaria, um…Ray Barretto, Willie Bobo. All of them. I grew up with this music! It was a very strong influence in my family – in my household.
I was at a gym, and I heard the music and it was catchy. I thought, “What are they in there doing?’ I ended up taking classes from an instructor named Christi Siler…and we had a ball! I loved the music! I loved how she moved! I found that I already knew the moves because I grew up with this music. I thought, “Oh my gosh. I can do this!” I really did it for the love of the music.
DMM: When did you began teaching your own classes here in Dayton?
Williams: I became certified and started teaching about a year later…The classes have just sort of taken off. I’m just appreciative – and very grateful – that people like what I do!
My style is very authentic. Zumba is a Latin word. It was developed by Alberto Perez, who is Colombian. So, in that spirit – it’s Latin. It’s what I identify with. It’s very authentic. [It’s] heavy salsa! Heavy meringue and reggae-ton! I stick with the authentic Latin moves, rather than incorporating too many other things. I’ve learned that the Latina population really appreciates that, because I’m not watering down anything…It is what it’s supposed to be.
DMM: So, what’s so cool about the zumba dance routines?
Williams: You’re working out without even feeling that you’re working out! You just let the music takes you wherever it wants to take you…The music is very motivating. It’s captivating and fun music. It takes you somewhere else!
It allows you a chance to escape. There’s whooping and hollering…clapping and cheering! The zumba logo says “Join the party!” So, we treat it like a party! It’s fun, and exciting. Every class is different…I’m trying to get some more men in the class…
DMM: …Which brings me to my next question. What was the inspiration behind your Zumba Men’s Challenges?
Williams: Diva is trying to gain more testosterone in her classes! [Laughs.] I’m not going to get the men in here by saying, “Would you guys please come to my zumba class?” Because they’re going to say that zumba is for girls! So I said, okay…How about if I challenge them? And I find that if I challenge them it’s like, “Hold on, wait a minute! You’re not gonna challenge me…” [Laughs]
When I challenged them, they came.
DMM: So you had a favorable response?
Williams: We had a huge one the first time. The entire dance floor was covered, and there were people going all the way to the back wall. That was in February. At the second men’s challenge, the men outnumbered the women.
DMM: What is the age range for zumba? And are there any restrictions?
Williams: Before you start any fitness regimen, you should always check with your doctor. There are different levels. There’s even Zumba Gold, for the elderly or for people who have had injuries. But it’s all ages [for zumba.]
My classes are very diverse — from ages 13 to 60.
DMM: Lastly, what would you say to anyone who may be on the fence about trying your classes?
Williams: For the ladies, it’s just an amazing way to get fit and toned for the summer. I tell everybody, “Before you strut, you gotta sweat!”
For my men, I tell them, “Zumba ain’t sissy, it’s sexy!”
DK&J Pump 1790 Shiloh Springs Rd Trotwood, OH
7:00pm $5 for non-gym members
Therapy Cafe 452 E. 3rd St Dayton, OH
Premier Ladies Fitness, Kettering OH
1:00pm members only
Ms. Williams would like to give a special shout out to DJ Danny D for providing her with fabulous Latin music and remixes!