Beto Is Great-O
When we were fortunate enough to attend last month's Zumba Convention in Orlando, Florida, we were Zumba novices and didn't know what to expect.
We came away with an instant Zumba obsession -- not to mention a major crush on the incredibly sexy and enigmatic Beto Perez, the creative director of Zumba Fitness and the man who created the sensation.
LovingYou: What makes Zumba such a great workout?
Beto: Zumba classes are like dancing at a nightclub with your friends, but you are burning calories and getting fit! The choreography is easy to learn so you don’t feel intimidated, and it’s a judgment-free platform. The most important thing about a Zumba class is leaving with a smile on your face -- and that never happens when you’re running on a treadmill or lifting weights. If you can actually enjoy your workout and reap the benefits at the same time, well that makes it a great workout. We like to say it’s “exercise in disguise” because you’re exercising, burning calories and fat without even realizing it -- it doesn’t really even feel like a workout.
LovingYou: How do you keep the music fresh and fun for your classes?
Beto: Music is such an integral part to working out. If I don’t love the music I am dancing to, then I don’t want to dance. We are constantly creating original songs with award-winning producers as well as selecting music ranging from major established artists to independent musicians. As the creator of the Zumba program, I personally screen all music and emphasize that each Zumba volume that our ZIN (Zumba Instructor Network) members receive features a variety of world rhythms from around the globe and work well in a Zumba class.
Every other month, our licensed instructors that are a part of the Zumba Instructor Network (ZIN) receive a CD with original Zumba music and chart-topping hits and a DVD with choreography designed for each song. That way, they consistently have new music to play in their classes that hit 14 million students per week! We also team up with artists to do fun remixes with choreography and launch that through our music platform, including the likes of Pitbull, Daddy Yankee, Paulina Rubio and Wyclef. The most recent collaboration is with Vanilla Ice -- we remixed “Ice Ice Baby” and Billboard.com exclusively launched it with huge success.
The key to becoming the largest branded fitness program in the world -- with more than 14 million weekly class students in over 140,000 locations across more than 150 countries -- has been Zumba Fitness’ ability to expand and evolve to meet the musical desires of our students and licensed Zumba instructors.
LovingYou: How was Zumba born? It seems to be taking the universe by storm these past few years.
Beto: Zumba was born when I was working as an aerobics instructor and choreographer in my home town of Cali, Colombia. One day, I walked into one of my classes and realized that I had forgotten my music. Because I did not want to cancel the class, the only option was to grab whatever music I could get my hands on, which happened to be a few tapes I had in my backpack. The tapes were mixes of my favorite songs -- traditional Latin salsa and merengue. When I started teaching the different rhythms, my students were loving it, smiling ear to ear.
I later took the concept to other gyms, met my business partners, and together, we made the Zumba fitness party come to life. It definitely is a joint effort. And those efforts have grown the last few years! We’ve been listening to our instructors and students and expanding our brand to include more of the products that they have asked for, like our Zumba wear apparel line, our at-home workout DVDs (which have sold 12 million copies, including “Exhilarate”) and even video games for all three major gaming platforms (Wii, Xbox and PS3), which have sold more than seven million copies while topping video game charts worldwide.
We’re also creating new specialty classes that extend well beyond the original Zumba programming like Zumba Sentao, which utilizes a chair to strengthen, balance and stabilize the core. Combine this with our initiative to create fun and exciting music with some of the industry’s most talented musical artists around, and we’re pretty excited for the future!
LovingYou: It seems the key to Zumba is fun -- the message being ‘join the party’ -- do you think that’s the secret to maintaining people’s interest?
Beto: Yes, the key ingredient to Zumba Fitness is most definitely "fun," but more importantly, it has become a lifestyle that has changed millions of lives while bringing in many people who may have never stepped foot in the gym before. It’s not just affecting people physically, but emotionally as well.
Music and dance are also universal so it has become somewhat of a movement in 150+ countries. The fitness world has become so technical that it began to lack the fun and energy that exercise should feature. Zumba Fitness is about moving -- it’s feeling the music and enjoying your workout. We are all capable of it -- nobody is excluded -- and I believe we can all be changed by it, on the inside and outside.
LovingYou: Say someone’s getting started in Zumba. They are out of shape, overweight, maybe not used to it. How do you recommend they get started? Is there a Zumba variation they should try? Should they start slow or just jump right into it?
Beto: The first thing we say about Zumba Fitness is that “anyone can do it.” It’s the perfect program for someone new to fitness because it’s a judgment-free platform and everyone has a beat/rhythm that lives within. It’s not performance dance that you need training for -- it’s celebratory dance. Zumba is inclusive not exclusive! And it’s a great family activity. We see classes where a grandmother, mom, son and daughter all take a class together.
Nothing takes the place of a live Zumba class (you can go on zumba.com and find a class anywhere in the world), but for those who want to first try Zumba Fitness in the comfort of home, we do offer an at-home workout DVD collection called Exhilarate and the video games for all three gaming platforms (Wii, Xbox and PS3). These will allow you to get a feel for the moves and the way the classes are designed. But once you step foot into a live class, you’ll get hooked. Our instructors are welcoming to new students and are fantastic at creating an environment where no one is being analyzed or judged -- it’s a fitness party!