Alberni resident Nicolette Morris looks like she’s having a blast.
In a dimly lit room on a Friday evening, Latin music is blaring over the sound system as she rhythmically dances to it.
She swirls her blonde hair, moves her hips and feet from side to side, cracks a smile then laughs. “I’m having a lot of fun,” she says with a slight South African accent over the loud music.
After the song finishes, she crosses the wooden floor to chat and have a sip from a bottle.
You’d think Morris was in a nightclub wearing heels and dancing the night away to a Latin beat but she’s isn’t.
Instead, she’s dressed in a tank top, sweats and running shoes and is in the upper-gym of Alberni Fitness.
Morris instructs a relatively new fitness method that has made its way into Port Alberni’s fitness facilities — Zumba.
“It’s like you’re at a dance party where there is Latin and international music,” Morris said. “It’s a hard workout but it feels like a party.”
Morris has lived in Alberni with her husband, who is originally from Canada, since February 2011.
Morris first discovered Zumba 10 years ago in her native South Africa when she watched a friend who entered a Zumba competition.
Morris had been involved with dance since childhood, as well as swimming, field hockey, track and tennis. “But I’ve been involved with dancing all of my life,” she said.
In 2009, Morris practiced Zumba in one of the largest gyms in South Africa and has stuck with it since.
There are different Zumba styles, and Morris prefers the one that combines merengue, salsa and flemenco.
Workouts last up to one hour, and different tempos and beats will raise and lower an enthusiast’s heart rate. “You work up a sweat but you have a lot of fun doing it,” Morris said.
Morris class is made up predominantly of women but some men participate as well. “My husband hasn’t tried one yet, but from what I’ve seen once men get involved they love it.”
One man who did try it is gym owner Ken Barlow. Sturdily built, Barlow looks like he can bench press a Buick and do arm curls with it too.
But he doesn’t consider himself a dancer, he said. “The last time I danced was when I was drunk in a nightclub years ago, “ he said. “Before that was at a school sockhop.”
Barlow watched a few Zumba classes and decided he had to try. “It looked like it was high energy fun and the instructor has a good vibe,” he said.
Having two left feet didn’t help but eventually he caught the hang of it.“You have to watch your movements but it’s a great cardio workout,” Barlow said. “If I can do this then anyone can.”
Participants also vary in age from early 20’s to older than 50. The moves take some time to learn, just as any dance does. But once you’ve got them down there’s fun — and a good workout — to follow.
Participants use their whole body when doing Zumba, but the core (lower back, abdominal, sides, glutes) in particular gets a good workout.
Across town at Echo Centre on a Monday night, Zumba instructor Brooke Juba is getting ready to teach a class.
The 11 women who make up the class dance almost non-stop to Latin and hip-hop beats for just under one hour before they stretch to finish the workout off.
“I’ve taught up to 35 people at once,” Juba said.
Like Morris, Juba has loved dancing since childhood. After graduating from ADSS in 2007, Juba moved to Alberta where she discovered Zumba. “It was the quickest one hour of my life and was love at first sight for me,” she said.
Juba took Zumba instructor training and taught briefly in Alberta before returning to the Island last year.
She teaches a class two days per week at Parks and Recreation and also teaches Zumba privately.
“It’s a nice alternative to the gym,” Juba said. “With Zumba you get to use your own body as a weight.”
Dance steps — like Salsa — can take some time to learn, “But that’s the fun of it at the same time,” Juba said.