Faculty Features: Tanya’s 10 Tips for Zumba® Newbies

By Tanya Nuchols

If you’re feeling a little shy to try your first Zumba® class at Joy of Motion Dance Center, you’re not alone. Everyone feels that way at first. The awkward feeling of stepping outside of your comfort zone will eventually fade and turn into confidence with each class. We repeat steps over and over, from week to week, so that you will build familiarity with the rhythm and choreography no matter when you begin your first class. Zumba® is not a technique class, but with each repetition you will learn how to move to different Latin rhythms. The most important thing is that you are moving, getting up your heart rate and building up a sweat. Your dancing finesse will evolve over time. I see it happen all the time. Want to join me for class? Click here for my schedule and read my tips below.

10 Tips for Keeping Up in Class:

1) Learn in layers: Focus on the footwork first. Once you have your feet going, work on adding in hip movements, arm movements, and then upper body movements.

2) Modify the movements to what you are comfortable doing: If I jump and you don’t want to jump, replace it with a tap, a squat, a wiggle, a punch, or whatever you like. If your feet tire out, just do the arm movements or vice versa. Take it easy on any injuries you have. If a particular movement is irritating a joint, muscle or nerve, please listen to your body and do not feel pressured to keep up with anyone but yourself. Many of your classmates are modifying movements too. Everyone has an ache somewhere.

3) Pace yourself: If you run out of breath or your heart rate is too high, omit the arm movements, but do not completely stop. Shorten your steps, or walk around and then drink some water. If you need to take a break, that is perfectly fine. I need them too! If a whole hour is too much, start with a half hour or do every other song (I try to alternate high and mid-tempo songs). Endurance will build gradually. Keep your strides short in length and when you are ready for more intensity, lengthen them by taking wider steps, making bigger arm movements and more exaggerated movements with your body.

4) Follow your neighbors when you can’t see me: I will try to be as visible as I can to everyone.

5) Stay hydrated: Take water breaks when you’re thirsty or between songs.

6) Sign language: I visually cue each move, so that you can anticipate where I am going next. Look for my sign language, you will pick up my cues when I motion you to turn or step left or right.

7) Listen to the music: Tune into the rhythm. It’s what I am trying to connect you to. Open your ears and listen for the beat and try to sync your body to it. You will also notice that many of the movements correspond to the structure of the song so when you anticipate the main chorus of the song coming up, you will know what step is coming up next (unless I improvise).

8) Wear good shoes: If you become addicted to Zumba® like the rest of us, you will want to invest in good dance sneakers, with smooth circular tread that allows for turns and pivots. Adequate support for toes, arches and ankles are recommended for higher impact movements. I prefer Asics Gel Ipera, Ryka Studio D and Bloch Boost Jazz sneaker (or the Capezio brand).

9) Stand up straight: Think tall, keep your shoulders down and back, and keep your core engaged. Dance with your core. Think of each movement originating from your core and let the energy move from there into your hip, arm or leg. Keep your knees pliant and pelvis tucked in to allow your hips to move naturally.

10) Exaggerate: Once you have the movement down, work on finessing it either by smoothing it out, adding more jump to it, more stomp to it, or adding more core power to it. The more you exaggerate, the more you will physically benefit from the movement.