A Bailothérapie class in action

If the idea of pounding a treadmill or jumping on an exercise bike fills you with dread, it may be time to start thinking of new ways to get fit. Zumba and Bailothérapie are just two of the latest fitness crazes spreading across the globe. These ‘dancercise’ classes get you to shake, shimmy and sway to sultry Latin rhythms, meaning you can forget the doldrums of the gym, along with their more often than not exorbitant membership fees.

Bailothérapie, from the Spanish word ‘bailar’ (to dance) and ‘thérapie’ (French for ‘therapy’), was created by Paris-based Angel ‘Randy’ Romero, who sought to create a dance movement that had origins in his native Venezuela. A one hour Bailothérapie class, Romero claims, does not only help combat stress, but can burn mega calories too. One session is even said to burn between 500 to 800 calories per session. Sign us up!

The provision of Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced levels in Bailotherapie ensures that anybody can join at any point . Romero’s sessions are further divided into ‘regular’ classes and ‘technical’ classes where the latter is a less intense version with the focus on executing each movement correctly. These each contain a warm up, cardio session (the hard slog !) and a cool down.

There are different types of Bailothérapie, determined by the variety of Latin rhythms and exercises and classes can be dominated by a particular musical style, specific theme or even the cultural identity of a country. Examples include Reggaeton (musical style), ’70s Memories’ (theme) and Brazilian Carnival (cultural identity).

Dance-fitness classes such as these help to polish up basic Latin dance steps, improve coordination, and tone those bum and thigh muscles which let’s face it, is what we all want, right girls? The popularity of such classes lies in the fact that they are seen as fun and social activities instead of a chore – a significant factor when it comes to lolling on the couch or getting out and exercising.

This however, was not originally Beto Perez’ intention when he ‘accidentally’ created his Zumba revolution. As a young aerobics instructor in Colombia he was forced to think quickly and creatively: ‘One day back in the 80s I forgot my aerobics music and I only had one cassette tape with me, so I improvised for one hour and people loved it!’

Burning calories Bailothérapie-style

And so from that moment, Zumba was born. His mix tape of traditional salsa and merengue rhythms combined with body sculpting movements and dance steps, quickly gained popularity.

‘When I moved to Miami all the gyms wanted me…the classes grew, more clients came to the gym, [it spread by] word of mouth. I was in the right place at the right moment…and I think back then, there was nothing new in the fitness world.’

A Zumba class will have you moving to reggaeton, cumbia, rumba, mambo, flamenco, calypso and salsa sounds and the class really does feel like one big party: a workout minus the monotony. Zumba is purely about having fun. ‘Ditch the workout, join the party’, the slogan states, highlighting the fact that the classes are completely open to anyone. Perez underlines this fact by specifying how important their philosophy of fun is: ‘When people create a program like this it can become all about egos but we have regular people in the class, we don’t have dancers’

With this ‘come one, come all’ message, Zumba has inevitably spread like wildfire. Gradually, the technique has gained a number of fans who today, take classes in over 40,000 locations in 75 countries around the world, from Aruba to Iraq, and Thailand to Sudan.

With some 5 million participants every week, it’s no surprise that Perez’ next step was to merchandise his creation. A range of DVDs, a clothing line, fitness accessories and training programs available ensure that anyone can lead a Zumba class.

Zumba takes to the streets!

‘After people finished with the DVDs they wanted to teach classes’ claims Perez. ‘Instructors use our training tools as a guideline only as I don’t want them to dance like me, I want them to add in their own flavour if they want to!’

When asked to describe his creation in three words he nods and says simply: ‘Easy, fun, effective.’ A Zumba class is certainly all three of those and then some!

Many classes like Zumba and Bailothérapie exist all around the world and the benefits of such dance-fitness hybrids are evident, particularly suiting those who find it difficult to get motivated when it comes to exercise, or are put off by those gym fanatics counting ‘reps’ and ‘sets’.

Fancy a change in your keep fit routine? Why not look up your nearest class. Leg warmers not required! For more information check out the Bailothérapie and Zumba websites.