There is a great experiment under way at the Bayfront Park Recreation Center. A new teacher is offering an array of dance classes at 5 p.m. every weekday. Two days a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, that class is Zumba — one of the more popular recent introductions to the fitness class repertoire.
The brave instructor — brave because 5 p.m. is a tough time slot in which to establish a class — is Jared Falgowski. Born and educated in Poland, he has been dancing professionally for about 35 years. He has represented Poland in international competitions. He teaches locally, from Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte to Sara Dance in Sarasota. He also does choreography for special events such as weddings and anniversaries. His wife, Dorothy, is also a professional ballroom dancer. And their son, Matthew, 16, competes as a junior. They are a dancing family with lots of competitive success to their credit.
How does a ballroom star come to teach Zumba? Mark Richardson is the Longboat Key recreation director and responsible for the Bayfront Park Center fitness class schedule. He says that Zumba is the class about which he has received the most inquiries. He was anxious to add it to the schedule, and Falgowski has the certification to teach it. It is a timely fit of teacher qualifications and market needs.
Just what is Zumba? It’s a hybrid of Jazzercise® and Latin aerobics. The similarity to Jazzercise is that the music is compiled of relatively short separate segments. The tempo and the moves are pure Latin — all kinds of Latin — with some other dances thrown in. Take a class and in 45 minutes you will do steps of rumba, cha cha, salsa, merengue, samba, mambo and more. The Zumba Fitness® website describes it as “the only Latin-inspired dance-fitness program that blends red-hot international music, created by Grammy Award-winning producers, and contagious steps to form a ‘fitness-party’ that is downright addictive. Since its inception in 2001, the Zumba program has grown to become the world’s largest — and most successful — dance-fitness program with more than 12 million people of all shapes, sizes and ages taking weekly Zumba classes in more than 110,000 locations across more than 125 countries.”
Until now, none of those classes was on Longboat Key except those at the private Longboat Key Club. The Longboat Key Education Center had hoped to offer Zumba this season but was unable to work it out. So, the Bayfront Park’s class is a bit of a coup for the town and a unique opportunity for fitness fans.
In addition to Zumba, Falgowski is teaching ballroom dancing on Monday, Latin on Wednesday and salsa on Friday. As noted, all classes are at 5 p.m. Cost is $15 for members, $10 for non-members. Registration is not required, but please call Falgowski if you plan to attend. You can reach him at 726-2130.
Back to Zumba. I have personally taken these classes locally and elsewhere and they are great fun. In plain English, the Latin dance steps are more interesting and less boring than step-touch and grapevine, yet equally low impact and safe for most fitness levels. I took Falgowski’s class and enjoyed it thoroughly. Newcomers will quickly grasp the steps and enjoy the diversity of the program, while experienced exercisers will find plenty to occupy their minds and their twinkle toes. Of course, everyone wishes there were a morning slot for this class, but Zumba at 5 p.m. is better than no Zumba at all!
Molly Schechter is an ACE-certified personal trainer with a specialty in older adult fitness plus YogaFit Instructor Training, SCF Yoga Fundamentals and Power Pilates™ Mat Certifications. She teaches classes at the Bayfront Park Recreation Center and the Longboat Key Club. E-mail her at mschechter@YourObserver.com.