Zumba Triad’s high-energy dance

by Christian Bryant

Katina Rice (right) leads a class of more than 50 women during a fast-paced Zumba workout on Jan. 22. Rice is one of several licensed instructors with Zumba Triad, a network of instructors, class schedules and other services. (photo by Christian Bryant)

IT`S 9 a.m. in Kernersville and Katina Rice arrives at the Kernersville Parks and Recreation center, half an hour earlier than scheduled. She tows her two children, Aryonna, 9, and Anaiya, 6, who are both eager to get their day started. Rice grabs her pink iPod and sign-up sheets and then heads inside to transform this multipurpose gymnasium into a high-energy Zumba studio.

By 9:30, Rice’s class starts filing in, most of them regulars who have attended a session before, but all of them came today to party. They pick spots along the walls of the gymnasium to shed their winter clothing, attach their authentic hip scarves and prepare for an hour-long dance party.

Moments later, Rice emerges ready to begin the workout. She wears a neon yellow “Zumba” tank top, a pink headband and a head-worn microphone with one pant leg rolled up for artistic flair. After a few announcements regarding safety, Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite” blares from the speakers at a deafening volume and these mothers, daughters, wives, full-time employees and students launch into their workout, a frenzy of controlled chaos.

“This is the most fun you’ll ever have exercising,” says Sharon Stevens, 44, of Kernersville, a research and development analyst and a regular to Rice’s class.

Zumba Fitness is a “Latin-inspired dance-fitness program,” according to the website, that has been gaining popularity since its inception in 2001. Although accidently created by Alberto “Beto” Perez, a Columbian fitness instructor, Zumba’s mission of popularizing the “fitness-party” has been a steady juggernaut.

The brand has since expanded from a publicized workout regimen with DVDs and infomercials to an international phenomenon in high demand anywhere there is open space. To appeal to a wider audience, Zumba Fitness now offers several different workout formats to suit the specific needs of varying participants.

“I first heard about Zumba by being a student,” Rice says. “Last year, if somebody told me I was going to have my own Zumba class, I would’ve said, ‘What are you talking about?’” Rice, along with several other licensed instructors, chronicles the popularity of Zumba Fitnees in the Piedmont at Zumba Triad, a directory for class offerings, schedules, instructor profiles and other services.

Today, the women in the class perform a number of moves, from hip rolls and salsa steps to arm swings and slow stretching. Fifteen fastpaced songs ranging from hip hop to reggaeton provide the theme music as the women share laughs and missteps and seemingly forget that they’re working out.

“It’s not just a workout,” says Yzetta Bynum, 36, of Greensboro.

“Sometimes you’re helping other people and not even realize it.”

Bynum is alluding to something that is implicit within this community of Zumba “divas.” Amidst all of the fun and weight-loss testimonials, there are stories of catharsis, friendship, community involvement and longevity.

“As women, we give up a lot for our children, our husbands and our jobs,” Rice says. “Sometimes we let ourselves go. [Zumba participants say,] ‘This is my hour for me’ and they feel empowered.”

“Everybody is so nice and I have friends here,” says Brittney Swaney, 23, an employee for Maxim Healthcare Services.

Zumba has whipped participants into shape and helped decrease their risk for diabetes, obesity and other health issues. According to exercise physiologist Nicole Gunning, this cardiovascular workout increases aerobic threshold, stamina, bone density, balance and muscle tone while decreasing body fat and blood pressure.

Zumba Triad has upped the ante by staging several community events to raise money for specific causes like Toys for Tots and disease research.

Rice’s class concludes with a few minutes of slow stretching, a collective bow and a round of applause. The class members exchange encouraging words and hugs before departing to once again check into their separate lives. These women come for high-energy, Latin-flavored fitness but leave with so much more.

Katina Rice is a Kernersville native and licensed instructor for Zumba Fitness, LLC. She can be contacted via e-mail at info@ Kernersville Parks and Recreation center; 125 E. Bodenhamer St., Kernersville;