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Zumba classes in Lodi attract professional dancers, casual exercisers

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Posted: Wednesday, February 23, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 6:04 am, Thu Feb 24, 2011.

As the 60-by-30-foot dance floor at Troupe Cabana Studio rumbles to the rhythmic bass of Latin music, instructor Nicole Howton guides the class of more than 50 people through its latest Zumba lesson.

The fitness regimen is a fusion of lively music and dance that aims to make exercise fun. Each class lasts an hour and features several types of dance steps like merengue, cumbia and salsa, set to Latin music. The exercise is easy on the joints, excellent for cardiovascular health and suitable for a wide variety of ages, Howton said.

Although Howton has put on numerous plays for Lodi Musical Theater and works to make those shows basically flawless, her Zumba classes aren’t pressure-packed sessions that require participants to be perfectly choreographed or move in fluid synchronization.

“If this is your first class and you can’t do the steps, that means you’re normal,” Howton said at a night class last week.

While Zumba is a popular trend, Howton sees it as a sustainable form of fitness. Although it will fall in and out of favor with individuals throughout the year due to people easing on their workouts, Zumba’s emphasis on fun, music and health is something that gives it a solid foundation.

“We, as a culture, love to play,” Howton said. “We love to feel young.”

Howton expects people to remain interested in Zumba in general because it can be practiced by people of all fitness levels.

“We have professional dancers in the same class as people who are working to lose weight,” she said.

Throughout the workout, she encourages students and reminds them to keep breathing. The process involves all the body’s major muscle groups, and participants sometimes hold their breath as they focus on the exercise.

“I want to hear gasping; that’s how I know you’re alive,” Howton said.

Classes are $5 per session, and funds help support Lodi Musical Theater. Studio manager Colleen Lindsay participates in the classes and oversees the operation’s budget. The classes can also help bring the next generation of performers to the theater, Howton said.

“People join and become better dancers, and then they want to join the theater,” she said.

Some students smiled while others breathed heavily as they shook their hips while performing the salsa during Tuesday’s class. The dancers would grab sips of water or wipe the sweat beading from their brows during brief breaks.

The classes are open to a wide variety of ages and held three times a week. Shirley Sing is 79 years old and has been attending classes since they began being offered in early January.

“I enjoy it; I like to move,” Sing said.

Like her fellow classmates, Sing enjoys the energy and movement Zumba offers. Sessions offer her a chance to make new friends and catch up with other classmates who regularly attend.

Ambre Shoneff has performed in plays and musicals under Howton’s guidance, and said she enjoys the pace of the class and effort it requires.

“It’s a good rhythm and it goes by quickly,” she said. “You don’t feel like you’ve been working out for an hour.”

Contact reporter Jordan Guinn at jordang@lodinews.com.

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