Zumba classes combine cultural influences

Low pressure exercise could be gateway to other athletic pursuits



Classes use moves from Japanese and Indian dance styles and continue to change.

CHLOE GRUNDMEIER, Evergreen reporter

For many Cougs, Zumba is an athletic expression of culture and a way to relieve stress.

“We embrace culture in Zumba rather than trying to make everything P.C., we welcome all forms of culture,” University Recreation Zumba instructor Sarah Dossey said. “We welcome people to give us suggestions from their cultures.”

Zumba is a fitness program that combines international music with aerobic activity in the form of dance, according to the Mayo Clinic. For some people, it encourages other athletic activity and can start as a stepping stone for other exercises, Dossey said.

Dossey said she got into Zumba at WSU as a graduate student when she had a lot on her plate. A fellow graduate student friend took her to a Zumba class to relax, and she said she’s been hooked ever since.

“It was a good break from reality and it really helped me not be quite so depressed,” Dossey said. “Now I love helping other people be happy because it can be so stressful here on campus.”

Dossey said she started training to become a boxing instructor thanks to Zumba. She said she can do 20 squats in a row without getting bored now but exercise felt like a chore before she experienced Zumba.

“We don’t talk in terms of fitness or exercise, we talk about how much fun you’re having,” she said.

Zumba originated in Columbia during the 1990s when choreographer Alberto Perez played traditional Latin music during an aerobics class he was teaching, according to National Public Radio.

The Latin beats caught on and Zumba grew into an international craze, and also a business, that combined salsa dance steps with more traditional athletic movements, like jumping jacks.

“Zumba is a fitness dance party,” Dossey said. “It’s a welcoming place to figure out what your body needs and to get that.”

The Coug led Zumba classes to include other cultures as well, Dossey said. All four instructors came from different backgrounds and have brought aspects of their culture into their classes, she said, including a Japanese Cha Cha and styles inspired by India.

“Having a place in UREC to share culture is really nice and it’s really therapeutic for me,” Dossey said. “Seeing everyone dance together makes me feel like this is my place on campus.”

UREC offers several Zumba classes taught at multiple convenient locations on campus, such as the Smith Gym, the Student Recreation Center and Down Under at Stephenson. You can sign up for classes during Mom’s Weekend events, which include a free Zumba class. You can sign up on the UREC website.

“I’ve met a lot of really good friends through Zumba,” Dossey said. “Professors will be here, grad students and freshmen, but we all get along because we’re dancing together.”