Friday, June 22, 2012

Susan Stamberg and I

Susan admits that she’s in a 20 year-long rut. I admit that I love the endorphins.

The NPR journalist recently talked about her love of Jazzercise. "Jazzercise is, in my case, a group of women of a certain age — although there are a few young ones in the class — who kind of flounce around to so-called contemporary music. It's the only exercise I've ever stuck with, and I've been doing it for something like 20 years."

I missed Jazzercise, which got big while I was wearing metal-framed glasses in the early 1980s. The exercise program was more fun than aerobics, which started while I was wearing glasses with plastic frames in the 1960s. I fell in with Zumba in the 2010s, while wearing half frame glasses. I can’t imagine life without Zumba--I already have a provider lined up in the small town in Indiana where I’ll be later this summer.

All three exercise programs are done to music, mostly by women in groups. They all have creation myths and are now a marketer’s dream. These exercise empires include instructor certification, branded clothing, franchises, and video cassettes (now DVDs). Zumba is Zumba®.

Aerobics was developed by a physician to reduce heart disease. Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper improved the fitness of U.S. military personnel and NASA astronauts before starting The Cooper Institute in 1970. The institute is dedicated to preventative medicine and the benefits of physical activity. A dancer developed routines based on Cooper’s 1968 book, which is still available.

Jazzercise was born in the late 1960s, when a dancer in Evanston, Illinois updated her exercise class with jazz tunes. By 1983 there were Jazzercise franchises in all 50 states.

The Zumba creation myth describes a happy accident when Beto Perez forgot the CD of music for the exercise class he was teaching in Cali, Columbia. He improvised salsa and merengue dance routines to the Latin music he had in his bag that day. Perez came to Miami in 2001 and added the ® to Zumba.

Some of the women in my Zumba class are wonderful dancers: their Zumba is graceful and easy on the eyes. Josie, our instructor, is exacting and joyful. (That's Josie in the photo, not me.) My Zumba is, well, Stamberg’s verb works here, I "flounce."

As a scientist who has never studied dance or played team sports, I enjoy the mental exercise of teaching my body to do something physical. I mean something more involved than learning to work my computer mouse with my left hand. The analytical part of me gets a workout, too: I have to count steps in Zumba. But mostly, Zumba is fun. The analytical part of me hasn't figured out exactly why, but I believe it involves endorphins. Being part of a group of friends who are moving in time to music is good exercise and it makes me happy.

Josie teaches at the YMCA and Boise Community Education. I met her through one of her community ed classes and I now take the classes she teaches on her own. You can catch us at the Pat Harris School of Dance near Fairview and Cole on Monday and Wednesday mornings from 10 to 11 a.m. Enjoy your first class for free; subsequent classes are $5 each.

Come join us! I’ll be the one moving my lips while dancing.


  1. I need something! Retirement from an active job has morphed into a finger-related job. My fingers are getting mighty nimble while my bottom line is growing exponentially. But Fairview & Cole is too far away. I need to hike myself over to the BSU activities center. But ugh, I donwanna!

  2. Dear I,

    You'll love Zumba! And when we do it with a group, we're better about attending. There are lots of classes in Boise, including several on Vista and Broadway. Type your zipcode into the box below the photo at to see them. There's regular Zumba and also Zumba Gold, which is lower impact.

    Good luck!


  3. Dear I,

    Guess what! Josie has added a Zumba class near BSU. Here's what she said:

    Starting Tuesday, November 6th I will be beginning a new Zumba class. The class will be every Tuesday and Thursday at 7pm at the Bronco Elite building located at 1187 W. River St., Boise, ID 83702. Your first class there will be free! Subsequent classes are either $8 for a drop in rate or $60 for a 10 class punch card.