Welcome to my Zumba blog! Find my class schedule, Yelp reviews, YouTube videos, and Facebook page links at http://www.zumba-sheila.com/ Stay here to share my tips and experiences! Check out my lessons on chest and hip movement, arms, body rolls, shimmies, posture, jive, tango & samba. More lessons are always coming, so become a Follower to stay in tune. After you've practiced a lesson, try incorporating the movement into your Zumba classes. Not sure if you're doing it right? Ask me after class. Don't live near me? Post a video response to my lesson and I'll give you some feedback.



I was nominated for best Zumba blog- Most Fascinating Blog of 2012 and came in 3rd place! Thanks for your support!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Exclusive Interview with Juank Ricardo, Colombian Vallenato accordeonist


Juank Ricardo, in his home, with his accordeon
I had the pleasure to be hosted by Juank's mother in Valledupar, Colombia, the birthplace of Vallenato music. Vallenato means "born in the valley." Vallenato is perfect for Zumba, and I've always enjoyed using it in my class.  It's fast and happy and the accordeon adds beauty and variety to our routines.  I feel so lucky to have met this kind and talented musician who is helping to create the new wave of Vallenato around the planet.  He has yet to try a Zumba class, but he's excited about the idea of it and thinks it is perfect to inspire people to move and dance!

Here are some samples of Juank's latest works:
Mi Razon de Ser
Vivo el el Limbo
Voy pa Lante

Here's what Juank has to say:  (Interview translated by Letiana Bohlke)

How old are you?  How many years do you want me to have?

How long have you been playing the accordeon?  I started when I was 8 years old so I've been playing for 22-23 years now.

Are you working with a singer right now?  not right now, but I've worked with 3 or 4 singers during my career.  And I've filmed a soap opera, Nina Bonita, which has done well in Colombia.

Do you prefer playing music or acting?  playing music absolutely

What do you feel when you are playing accordeon for an audience?  I feel the love of the people.  It's the most special thing that could happen to any artist.  The love of the people is the best reward I could have.
Accordeon Statue in Valledupar
Sign at base of statue: My Piece of Accordeon
Do you make eye contact with certain people, or do you just look over their heads?  It depends.  If it's only one person, I play for her.  If it's a concert, I play for everybody.  Of course, if I see a beautiful girl, I look at her.

When you play in a concert, does the audience dance or sit still? People like to dance to Vallenato.  It depends.  The modern Vallenato is more dancing.  With the old Vallenato, people used to only sit because it was so beautiful and they only wanted to sit and listen.  The older Vallenato was more poetic and romantic, says people like my father.

Do you play the modern Vallenato?  I’m one of the people who has started the new movement, or modern generation of Vallenato.

How old are your fans? 20-25 years old, or maybe 15-25

Have you traveled and performed in different countries?  Yes,  Europe, Germany, Spain, France, Italy . . 

Do audiences in different countries behave differently?   My audiences are Latinos, and Latino people are the same everywhere.  Some people think I'm from Venezuela.  They get confused and don't know I'm from Colombia.

Where do you get the inspiration to write a new song?  from a story from my life.  Sometimes my friend has an issue with love, and I make a song about his story.  Sometimes I say it's my friend's story, not mine.

Do your friends appreciate when you write a song about them?  a lot!

Do you envision Vallenato as moving outside of Latin audiences and people from other countries dancing to vallenato?  I think it's a very successful type of music that's going to be around the planet.  Every Latino knows this type of music.

Can you explain the different types of vallenato?    

Paseo is written in 4/4 time and is the most popular type.   Son is also written in 4/4 time but is mournful and slow.   Merengue, not the Dominican genre, is written in 3/4 time and has a narrative style.  Finally, Puya is witten in 3/4 time and is the oldest of the 4 types.  All the vallenato songs use drums, accordeon and guacharacas.  Sometimes guitar or other instruments, like bass, bells and piano, began to be used later on, too.

Which do you prefer?  merengue.

Which ones provide the most energetic music for dancing?  Puya, merengue and Paseo.  You can dance very fast in 4/4 to Paseo.  "Zuaka de one" would be an excellent high speed dance song from my CD.  Routine from Zumba with Sheila coming soon!

How do you feel after you play an especially fast song?  I feel amazing!

Guacharaca lesson wth Juank!

Faster Guacharaca lesson!  I didn't feel so amazing after playing so fast!  My head hurt!

Do you get to meet many other artists?  Many artists are brought to the Vallenato festival in April in Valledupar.  The festival is famous around the world.  It's why I have a vision that Vallenato will be around the globe.
Vallenato Festival Statue in Valledupar

Sign at the base of statue













How do you participate in the Vallenato festival and what happens there?  I'm going to participate next year.  It's a contest where they elect the king of Vallenato.   Contestants must play all 4 types and demonstrate that they are a master of Vallenato.  Judges decide who is the best.

What kind of exercise do you do?  I love to play soccer, and accordeon is good for my arms!  I haven't tried Zumba yet!  I'm a better musician than a dancer, but playing the accordeon is dancing with my fingers, so maybe I could still learn to dance!






Monday, March 31, 2014

Dangers of Perfumes & Scented Products While Exercising

     So you're just trying to make yourself healthier by going to Zumba class, but now you realize you've entered a chemical danger zone.  In the beginning of class, the woman next to you, though three feet away, smelled nice and you didn't really mind.  But about 20 minutes later, she's getting warmer and chemistry is making her perfumed body lotion even stronger.  To top if off, your heart is beating faster and you're breathing harder so those sweet smelling chemicals are now circulating through your body quickly.  If you're a student, you could move to another corner of the room or just leave and you're wise to do so.  Inhaling perfume products or powders during exercise can lead to serious health problems.
     I've had students complain to me after class that they got a migraine because the woman next to them had to much perfume.  One student told me she had to leave class because a woman walked in late with enough perfume to trigger her asthma symptoms.  At the gyms, I always see signs that read, "Please refrain from using any scented products."  In the past, all I did was sent out general emails asking students not to wear perfumed products to class.  Then something happened to change my tactics.
     About three weeks ago, a student came to my class with such a strong scent of perfume that could be smelled from more than 10 feet away.  If I were a student, I would have moved as far from her as possible or even left the class early.  Being the teacher, however, I had to remain close to the center of the front row and I surely couldn't just leave.  I became so distracted and light headed that I started to forget routines that were otherwise easy for me.  I went home and felt light headed, heavy chested and "poisoned" for the rest of the day.  For the first time, I felt like my job made me less healthy, not healthier.  Through email, I confronted her, told her I loved her but politely asked if she could wear less perfume next time.  She said she hadn't been wearing any perfume but she had put a new body lotion on, and yes, that lotion did seem pretty strong.  She apologized and said she wouldn't use it again.  That's when I started educating myself about perfume.  The first thing I read is that inhaling perfumes can affect your short-term memory.  That would explain why I couldn't remember my routines that day.
    I was fine for a couple weeks.  Then, last week, I noticed obvious perfumed scents coming from two different students.  When I started to experience the same symptoms again, light headedness and inability to remember my routines, I decided that I didn't want to poison myself.  So I canceled my 1 hour class after only 40 minutes and asked everyone not to wear scented products to my class.  It was an act of tough love, but I had to make students realize that I won't teach if I notice perfume.  One lady thought it was her fabric softener or scented deodorant; she promised to change them.  Another claimed she didn't use perfume because she was allergic to it but she was using a corn starch baby powder on her armpits.  I went home and read about corn starch and baby powder and found out that the powder gets in the air and we inhale the irritating particles  As a result,  I made a new waiver that reads, "I will not wear scented products or powders to class." All my students initial this statement and sign the new waivers.  Plus, I've posted a sign about perfumes at the studio and on my website.
     The next couple days were hard for me.  I seemed to have developed a heightened sense of smell.  I was noticing everything, and everything was distracting me from teaching.  I even worried I wouldn't be able to teach Zumba anymore.  I even noticed all the detergents and cleanser smells at the grocery store.  Luckily, I could walk away from those.  I might have developed hyperosmia.  I read that this increased olfactory acuity can be triggered by environmental factors but can also go away if the environmental factors are removed.  So I went to Whole Foods and purchased fragrance free shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, body lotion, deodorant and hair mousse.  I was desperate!  I even borrowed a small air purifier from a dear friend and brought it to the dance studio along with another fan to blow the air around the room.  If all these efforts don't work, I guess I can shell out for a larger air purifier for my studio. (update: I just bought this: Winix PlasmaWave 5300 Air Cleaner Model)  I read that if you apply deodorant in front of one or even fart in front of it,  the fan will kick in and start purifying the air.  Having it helps me psychologically.
     At one class, a concerned and long-time student told me she hadn't put on any perfume that morning, just for me, and she asked me to smell her to make sure there was nothing.  I didn't notice anything.  Twenty minutes into the class, however, I suddenly noticed perfume coming from her corner of the room.  That's when I learned that increased body temperature strengthens any perfume you are wearing.  Perfume Originals, a perfume manufacturer, admits, "Increased body temperature causes perfumes to expand and the scent becomes stronger."  When I asked the sweet lady after class if she could wear less perfume next time, she was annoyed that before the class started, I had told her that she didn't smell of perfume.  That was before I knew about this perfume chemistry
     At another class, one student admitted she had applied perfume at 8AM, went to work and came straight to Zumba after work.  "Am I supposed to take a shower before I come to Zumba?"  Where are you putting it on your body?  If it's just a small area, can you wash it off?  If you're getting warmer, and the fragrance is becoming stronger, the people next to you will be suffering, no matter what time you put the perfume on.
    My husband suggested I was having a reaction to cleaning products used in the studio, but the truth was I only had problems at particular classes that particular students attended.  And if I taught another class right after it, with different students, the air seemed clear, and I felt fine.  One friend gave me advice to spray Febreze in my my studio before class to kill any other odors in the air.  Well, Febreze itself is just a another chemical that traps the odor molecules.  Let's go green and have clean air quality Zumba!
     It's hard to imagine how much your scented shampoos, hairsprays, lotions, laundry detergents, fabric softeners, etc can disturb others until you have had an experience such as I have had in the past few weeks.  Even if it doesn't bother you, note that many of these products are made with synthetic chemicals that can lead to all sort of problems for you and your neighbor, including lung cancer, pneumonia and yes, hyperosmia.

 References:  
 Is Perfume the New Second Hand Smoke?
  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/danny-seo/is-perfume-the-new-second_b_503114.html
Scent of Danger:  Are There Toxic Ingredients in Perfumes and Colognes?
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/toxic-perfumes-and-colognes/
Why Go Fragrance Free?
http://invisibledisabilities.org/educate/chemicalsensitivities/whygofragrancefree/
Perfume in the Workplace
https://canadasafetycouncil.org/workplace-safety/perfume-workplace
Scent-Free Policy for the Workplace
http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/hsprograms/scent_free.html
Perfume Originals
http://www.eimi.com/perfumeoriginals/perfumefaq.htm

Friday, October 4, 2013

How to Nightclub two step for dance exercise cooldowns

I just made a video http://youtu.be/jOyJXwcm6qg1for how to do the steps I usually do for Nightclub two step routines.  Nightclub two step can be done to a number of slow popular music songs.  In my class, we have used this rhythm for Beyonce's Halo, Demi Lovato's Heart Attack (See my routine at http://youtu.be/0WuqcFtNMj8) and even Cosmic Dancer from Billy Elliot!  It's a partner dance, but I have adjusted it so we can dance it by ourselves in a dance exercise class.

The timing is quick quick slow (QQS).  Each quick is 1 count.  Each slow is 2 counts.  So, this dance style can be used for many slow 8 count songs.  Lady in Red comes to mind!

On the basic step, make a big side step on the slow.  Push off with your launching foot.  The step should feel smooth, not bouncy up and down.  You head should stay on one level!  You can use your hips a little or not at all, but not as much as you would for a Latin dance.  The two quicks of the basic step are 1) small step diagonally back and 2) replace weight on other foot.  Then the slow is a big side step wth the same foot you used in #1.

You can do 3 basic steps and turn.  The turn will consist of 3 steps done to the QQS rhythm.  Students often make the 3rd step too fast and get off time with the music.  You can keep repeating 3 basic steps (RLR, LRL, RLR) and turn (LRL).   Or you can do 2 basic steps and a turn.  Each time you will start your basic step on a different side and turn in the opposite direction.

You can do a side travel step.  QQS.  1= side step to right.  2= left foot crosses in front of right. 3= right foot steps to right.   Repeat on the other side or alternate with basic steps.

You can add a grapevine, or four quick steps, in between sets of basics.

You can pivot turn.  You can pivot turn 90 degrees between each side travel step.  If you are side traveling to the right, pivot counterclockwise on step 3 of the side travel.   You can also pivot 180 and feel like you're flying!  I like to do 3 basics (RLR, LRL, RLR) and pivot counterclockwise on my right foot 180 degrees and then side travel to the left.  Keep repeating!  Fun!

Please watch the video!


Monday, August 12, 2013

Zumba and Yoga



I love to do a little Yoga right after Zumba.  Your muscles are warm and it's the best time to stretch and relax.  Once a week I go to a wonderful 60 minute Iyengar Yoga class that happens to be right after a Zumba class that I teach and in the same building!  Score!  I'm in love with the teacher.  She relaxes me and constantly makes me aware of my body alignment.  Even if I already know the concept, she describes it with such articulate description that I begin to think about it differently.  From her, I learn new ways to describe stretches to my students.

I always walk into Iyengar Yoga about 5 minutes early so that I can roll out my legs on the foam roller.     
When I first started rolling, the sides of legs pressing down on the roller literally made me scream in pain.  My teacher, however, said that the more it hurts, the more you need to roll.  So I kept rolling, and now it's not so painful anymore.  The t band is something most people don't stretch very well, so it can become quite tense.  Rolling is doing wonders for my t band.  Rolling is also great for you back.  In fact, you can massage your whole body with the roller.

As for Yoga on a regular basis, 20 minutes of Yoga would be ideal for me.  But since I teach a 60 minute Zumba class, I make the last 5 minutes all about stretches, including many yoga stretches, such as downward dog, happy baby, cow face pose, bound angle pose, half lord of the fishes pose, lotus pose, child's pose, extended puppy pose, and various forward bends.

Today I went to a 30 minute meditation followed by a 90 minute Vinyasa yoga class.  During the 30 minute meditation, the teacher asked us to open our hearts and clear our minds.  She told us that if anyone asked us a question at that moment, we would respond with our hearts rather than our minds.  We were to be present to the moment.

While I was supposed to be having such honest, tailored thoughts, here is what went through my mind.  "I'll open my eyes and see if anyone else is opening theirs.  Yes, the girl in the back has her eyes open the whole time.  Oh look at this crud between my toe nails.  Let's see - clear my mind of any unpleasant thoughts-  immediately my worst experiences and nightmares come to mind and I replay them in my head.  Why is my brand new yoga mat so sticky?  If I move, everyone will hear me unstick.  what- is that a new frown mark above my nose?  I wonder what I should make for lunch- do I need to buy anything on the way home?  Listen to this teacher's Russian accent.  Her butt is so perfect.

Yes, I'm a fast moving person, with little patience for meditation.  That's why there's Zumba!  Still, as a teacher it's important to challenge myself and visit other classes where more serious yoga practitioners are thriving.  Their dedication, flexibility, passion and concentration are my motivation.  Hopefully, with each yoga class, I can pick up a move or a way to describe a move that I can incorporate into my Zumba stretch.  Attending these classes also turns me into a student.  I'm no longer the best in the room; I learn to feel silly and humiliated and understand how my students must feel.  I go to better myself and challenge myself and step out of my comfort zone.

Find what it is that can enhance your performance and embrace it.  Step outside of your comfort zone and learn something new.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

How to Dance Merengue for dance exercise

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See the demo video   Here are some of the common steps I do during merengue routines:

Basic March Step:  March in place, but instead of thinking about lifting up your knee, as you would during a regular non-dancing march, concentrate on what your opposite foot is doing- the one that is down.  Really press that foot into the floor- so much that the hip on that sides pops up. Your opposite knee still comes up, but it's not your primary focus.  As your opposite knee comes up, the heel of the same foot always comes off the floor.  The ball of the foot keeps contact with the floor.  Just the heel rises.  The more you can make it rise, the better.  It gives you the look of high arches, which is the goal.  Imagine you're dancing with high heels.

Adding a Twist to the Basic Step:  Combine a hip twist with the basic march in place.  In a hip twist, your hips rotate around your spine.  As you put weight on your left foot, your right hip comes forward and twists to the left.  Squeeze your inner thighs together here.  As you put weight on our right foot, your left hip comes forward and twists to the right.  Squeeze.  Repeat.

Basic Side Step:  Move your right foot to the right on 1.  Move your left next to your right foot on 2. Repeat.
Use your hips to do these steps:  The reason your right foot moves to the right is because your left hip bumps up, causing your rib cage and body weight to shift to the right and push the right foot out of the way.  Then when your left foot meets your right foot on 2, your body position returns to neutral.

Basic Side Step with figure 8:  A figure 8 movement can also be used on the basic side step.  The left side of the figure 8 happens when you step to the right.  The right side happens when you bring your feet together.  Repeat the same on the other side.

Basic Side Step with hip circle:  Make counterclockwise hip circles as your travel to the right.  When your right foot move right, your hips travel left.  As your left foot closes in next to your right foot, do the backwards part of the hip circle.  Do the front part of the hip circle (hips moving left) as you step right again.
Do the opposite when you travel to the left.

Turning Basic Side Step with hip circle:  As you are stepping to the right you can turn around in circles to your left or counterclockwise.  Step, turn and do hip circles simultaneously.  When side stepping to the left, turn right or clockwise.

Turning Basic Side Step with hip circle and shimmy:  Now add a hip shimmy.  It is easier if you only shimmy on 2, as you're bringing your feet together.  It's easier to shimmy the hip of the foot that is up in the air.

3 Step or "side together side together":    Think:  Right, replace, together, Left, replace, together.  123,456  1 is a basic side step to the right, 2 is a basic side step to the left, on 3 the right foot moves left until it meets the left foot.  4 is a basic side step to the left.  5 is a basic side step to the right.  On 6, the left foot moves right till it meets the right foot.  Repeat.

Crossing 3 Step:  Do the same as the 3 Step, but cross your feet on 3 and 6.  Right, replace, cross in front.  Left, replace, cross in front.  Instead of bringing your feet together, one crosses in front of the other.  You can also do a crossing 3 step by crossing behind.  Right, replace, cross in back.  Left, replace, cross in back.  This step can be done to a few different rhythms:  1) Quick Quick Slow, Quick Quick slow:  The cross happens on slow.  2) 6 Quicks:  This will be very fast.  For either rhythm, you can use a basic side step or a basic step with a twist.  If you twist:
on 1) hip twist to left as your right foot steps to right
on 2) hip twist to left as your step back on your left foot
on 3) hip twist to left as your right foot crosses in front
Repeat the opposite on the other side.

Bouncy Side together Side together with figure 8:  1) Basic side step to the right with figure 8 pushoff.  2) Basic side step to the left with figure 8 pushoff.  3) Right foot closes in to left foot.  body becomes neutral.  Same on other side.  This will be fast.  To make it bouncy, push off you right foot at the end of 1 and push off your left foot and the end of 4.

Pony:  Start with the basic marching step. Add a vertical hip circle.  You reach the bottom of the circle on 1 and the top of the circle on 2.   Bend your knees to get lower on 1 and raise your heels to get higher on 2.  Absorb the rise and fall into your abs so that your upper body is not out of control and remains fairly steady.

Mambo Chasse:  I rarely see students have trouble with this one!  You can step on the mambo or do pelvis thrusts or hip bumps or many other creative moves.  Think of the chasse as a cha cha step.  The count goes
1, 2 = mambo (right foot forward, left foot in place)
3+4= chasse (side step, together, side step)(to the right)
1,2 = mambo on other side (left foot forward, right foot in place)
3+4= chasses (to the left)
On the chasse, you can either skip and not use your hips, and travel a lot OR you can quickly bump your  hips on each of the 3 steps and travel less.  Try both for variation.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Which Zumba teacher do you like better?

Everyone is always talking about which Zumba teachers are good.  Which ones are good depends on what you are looking for.  Just because your best friend likes one, doesn't mean you will like the same one.  What I've noticed is that students don't realize why they like one teacher more than another.  They'll say they get a better workout from one, or one is more fun, but they can't exactly pinpoint what the difference is.

Some positive teacher attributes are obvious.  This teacher cues really clearly.  She always points which way she's going to go next or shows with her fingers how many steps we have left.  She even uses her eyes and her facial expressions to cue.

She smiles and yells out crazy motivational pep talk the whole class.  She gets us going in a conga line or divides the room into a battle; she's just fun!

Some teachers are the mother hen.  They make it around to everyone in class and memorize all the names and know something about each student and call out their names and encourage them.

Many teachers have lost their reputation because of where their eyes are pointing.  "That teacher always faces us.  She's too hard to follow; I wish she'd just face the mirror."  I can't tell you how many times I've heard that.  For us teachers it's hard to absorb because at Zumba certification we learned we're supposed to face our participants.

I've also heard, "She's so stuck up.  She's always staring at herself in the mirror.  She doesn't look at her students; she doesn't even notice that we can't follow her."

Before I started teaching, I went to a class with a very friendly, energetic, enthusiastic teacher.  She did very easy, repetitive choreography, so it was super easy to follow her class, too easy for me.  But she could move her body well and was fun to imitate.  But I went to her class three times, and each time she picked me out and asked me to come to the front and dance.  As a student, I had mixed feelings.  Of course, it was a compliment.  She liked my dancing and wanted me to serve as an example.  But I wasn't a teacher yet, so I didn't have that "let me teach the class myself" attitude yet.  I just wanted to be the student and observe and learn; I didn't want to be a role model.

Some students don't want to be in a battle or in the middle of a circle and feeling the pressure of having to come up with a cool move.  Some students don't want to be put in the front of the class for everyone to watch.  They just want to melt into the class without too much attention on them.

Here's the main reason that I think students like or don't like a teacher, even if I've never heard a student say this herself:  You'll like the teacher who feels the music the same way you feel or want to feel the music.

I'm a teacher, so when I take another teacher's class, I always think "What would I do to this part of the music if I were teaching?"  Sometimes I think, "Well I definitely wouldn't do this."  Then I'm wishing I were up front and taking over the class at the moment.  Other times I think, "wow I do this same song in my class but I use different moves, but this teacher's moves are fun and go with the music too."  Maybe I picked a move that went with the lyrics, but she is picking a move that goes with the rhythm or a particular instrument in the background.  Other times I think, "wow, I've never used this song, but I'm really getting into this and the moves the teacher has selected for this song just make the song feel so right.  I feel like I'm part of the music!"

As a Zumba teacher who sometimes plays the role of a Zumba student, that's what I love the most about being a student.   It's that moment in the middle of class when you say to yourself, "Wow!  I'm feeling the music and I'm so into this.  This move is so fun and goes with the music so well!  I am the music!"  When I'm teaching, that's my goal all the time.  I have control over the choreography.  I'm trying to make my students feel the music too!

Some teachers mix their music to make each section longer so s/he can repeat the same move longer.  That makes the choreography easier to follow because there aren't as many cues and changes to pay attention to.  But it can also make the workout more boring for the same reason.  Some students want the routine that's easy to follow.  Others want a challenging routine with more changes and shorter sections.  You may not know what you want till you've tried several different classes!

Some teachers do more aerobic moves and less dancey moves.  There can be multiple explanations for this.  First, aerobic moves are easier to learn than dance moves.  They're designed to be easy.  Second,  aerobic moves can get your heart beating faster because you're more likely to do them correctly.  But doing dance moves with oomph can be so much more rewarding.

I've heard students say that they won't take a Zumba class from a teacher who doesn't look good.  If the teacher's body doesn't look fit, then why should that class be able to make the student fit?  These students need visual motivation.  "The teacher's body looks good; so maybe this will make me look good."

I've heard other students say that they like a teacher because she has a real body and she's not all skinny perfect.  Those students are thinking, "Hey, her body looks a lot like mine and she looks good doing all these moves, so I can learn to do that too."

I've had other teachers give me advice, "You need to build an image- do something to make students like you- wear lip gloss or makeup or style your hair a certain way."  Maybe that works for some teachers, and maybe some students are attracted to an instructor for non-dance or leadership reasons.  just lip gloss or hair style!  But I believe students come to me because they like my dance style, my choice of dance moves and my choice of songs, the fact that I change songs frequently, and the time, location and cost of my class.

Personally, when I was learning ballroom dance, my favorite teacher was the one whose body type was the closest to mine.  When I watched the teacher do the moves, I could more easily imagine what it was supposed to look like on me.  I'm a petite woman and 5'1".  It's a lot harder for me to imagine what a move should look like on me if I'm learning from a man or a tall, voluptuous woman.

One tall female student who came to my class once, asked me after class, if I knew any tall instructors.  I asked her why.  She said she thought that it would be easier for her to take a class from a tall instructor because "it's hard to move fast when you're tall."  She believed a tall instructor would do slower moves.  I explained to her that tall instructors would also use fast music and move fast.  Of course, she didn't believe me and still sought a tall instructor.  But I understood, what she really wanted, like me, was a body type she could identify with and imitate.

At the same time,  sometimes it's fun to take a lesson from an attractive person of the opposite sex.  Male Zumba teachers are extremely popular, and most of the participants are women!  My favorite hip hop teacher was a man.  My body couldn't imitate his exactly, but he was fun and entertaining to watch!  I can see how a woman whose husband doesn't dance would love to take Zumba with a male instructor.  A live man in front of you dancing and making eye contact with you!

Another student told me that she used to take class from a Zumba teacher who knew how to do all the moves but looked the same doing them all.  This student told me the teacher was so nice and friendly that everyone liked her anyway.  Now, it's hard for me to imagine a teacher who does all the moves but looks the same doing them all.  Perhaps she just did the same steps in cumbia and salsa and even in flamenco and merengue.  But I always listen to this type of input from my students because I'm trying to learn everyone's opinion about what makes a good Zumba teacher, so that I can become the best I can be.  If you have other ideas about why students favor one teacher over another, please share them in the comments!


Saturday, April 6, 2013

How can I protect my knees while dancing?

Here are 10 tips for protecting your knees during dance:  See video at: http://youtu.be/1E96XUHlSCw

1) Reduce your body weight, so less weight will sit on top of your knees.  (easier to do if you can work out without hurting yourself!)
2) Don't wear really old workout shoes.  Shoes lose cushioning after a while.  Replace them!
3) During your warm up, be sure to bounce gently in your knees.  Don't totally straighten your legs and lock your knees.
4) Knee circles can strengthen knees and legs.  Start with your feet together.  Bend your knees till you're in a mild squat, keep your feet on the ground, and draw circles with your knees on a horizontal plane.  Try the same with your feet apart.  Do both directions.  Imagine you're circling a  hula hoop around your knees.  Include knee circles in your warmup, perhaps along with hip circles.
5) Many students tell me they can't do the hip rotator move that is common to hip hop or samba.  It looks like the knees are moving side to side rapidly.  But notice I called it a hip rotator movement.  Your knees are not moving at all; it's like an optical illusion.  It's all in the hip rotator.  The key is to align your knees with your toes.  Let your whole leg move as one unit, from hip rotator to toe, and the hip rotator does all the work.   Maintain muscle tone in your inner thigh to keep control over your leg so the knee stays aligned with the toes.  Also, if you press down into the floor with the ball of your foot, like you want to squish a cockroach, you will maintain pressure in your inner thigh and not let your knee flop around.  It's when you get lazy, do it sloppy, not put foot pressure into the floor and not engage your inner thighs, that you can lose control of your knee and let it wander and twist itself.  Always include a slow  hip rotator movement in your warmup and gradually pick up the speed.
6) If you want to do the chicken move, where your knees come apart and together again, make sure your feet are rocking side to side so that your knees stay in line with your feet.  If you attempt the chicken knees with feet flat on the floor, you will torque your knees and feel discomfort.
7) When doing lunges, don't let your knees go in front of your toes.  Even when you're taking giant steps forward, for example in ballroom waltz, don't let your knees pass your toes.
8) Absorb shock during landing steps.  After a jump or a hop or a big step, take up the landing in your knees by descending more after your foot touches the floor.  In other words, cushion your landing.  Don't let your foot noisily hit the floor: that would be crashing, not cushioning.  Crash landings are too much impact on your knees.  When you do knee raises and the knee is quickly coming up and the foot is quickly coming down and touching the floor again (common in Bollywood), don't think of it as stomping your foot.  Your thigh and abdominal muscles should be so engaged and tense that they stop your foot from crashing just as it's about to touch the floor.  If your muscles are stopping your foot, you shouldn't even hear your steps.  Now the impact on your knees is ever so subtle.
9) Don't jump till you feel really warmed up.  You may need to avoid jumping and stay low impact.  Or maybe you can half jump (let you heels leave the floor).  You can still have a lot of fun and get a great workout by staying low impact (keeping one foot on the floor at all times.)
10) If you have knee cartilage issues, try taking knox gelatin.  Mix it in your juice.  It's cheap and can strengthen your cartilage.
11) Use shoe gliders such as DanceSocks on your shoes if your are dancing on sticky floors.  Sticky floors will not let your twist freely and could injure your knees.