Living la vida zumba

ZUMBA, the fitness craze being hailed a "global phenomenon", is sweeping through Hartlepool and east Durham as people search for a new way of getting into shape.

But what exactly is zumba?

Mail reporter TRACY WALKER found out more as she was put through her paces by instructor Christine Patton.

WHEN I volunteered to take up a zumba class with dance instructor Christine Patton, I didn't know quite what I was getting myself into.

Zumba sounds like rhumba – would I be learning the rhumba? Some sort of salsa dancing?

I could have signed up for the macarena for all I knew – I was completely clueless about what the session would entail.

Whatever it was I was keen to give it a go after hearing about the wide-ranging benefits and following a string of failed diets and fitness fads.

So I joined one of Christine's classes, at the Stranton Children's Centre, in Southburn Terrace, Hartlepool.

There were around 15 other women at the class, though Christine said this could reach between 35 and 40 and the recent bout of flu and colds could have been responsible for putting people off attending the first class of the year.

I took my friend and Mail colleague Marie Westmoreland along, and we found the atmosphere to have a real party feel.

Christine really got into the spirit and you couldn't help feed off her energy as she burst into shimmies, twists, and shakes.

We followed her as she showed us a routine based on the Latin cumbia style, as well as bunny-hops, twirls and wiggles.

She led us through a number of moves, some of which involved fast footwork.

Zumba draws on all kinds of influences, from Bollywood and belly dancing to rock 'n' roll and we found ourselves lurching from mystic Eastern-inspired moves and latina rhythms with the strains of Ricky Martin's Living La Vida Loca, to performing hand jives.

Zumba is a Latin-inspired dance fitness craze which incorporates music and dance movements from around the world, creating an exhilarating and effective fitness system, which tones and sculpts the body.

Christine, 57, said: "Zumba is a global phenomenon. It is now in 106 countries.It's huge and it's absolutely great to be part of."

Christine, who has a partner called Brian Woods and is mum to Andrew, 32, and Adam Palmer, 30, has 26 years experience of teaching dance and fitness and even appeared in a formation team on TV's Come Dancing in the 1970s.

She first became involved with zumba after attending an International Dance Teachers' Association lecture in London last February.

"I took a look and took to it straight away," said Christine.

She brought what she learned back to Hartlepool and has been teaching classes in town since May.

Christine, who lives in Seaton Carew, added: "It's taken the world by storm.

"I think the music is a lot to do with it, it's so inspiring."

Christine described zumba as "exercise in disguise" and said its appeal was the fun aspect and people not needing to have dance experience as the moves are so easy.

As for myself and Marie, our verdict was that zumba is "just like dancing around your bedroom" and we will be sure to be heading back.

Christine runs classes on Wednesdays between 7pm and 8pm at Seaton Carew Social Club, in Station Lane, on Thursdays between 6pm and 7pm at Stranton Children's Centre, and she is starting a new session for 13 to 19-year-olds at the Rossmere Centre, in Rossmere Way, Hartlepool, on Sundays between 7pm and 8pm.