For Adrienne Harrell, teaching weekly Zumba Gold classes in Capitola is deeply connected to her day job as Assistant Dean of Humanities at UC Santa Cruz. “Teaching Zumba Gold allows me to share my own love of dance and performing, while moving and grooving along with my students,” says Harrell. “It has been a personally rewarding experience on many levels.”
Zumba Gold, launched in 2006, is designed for adults looking for a modified class featuring lower-intensity moves than are taught in a standard class. The 50-minute lesson includes steps from salsa, samba, merengue, cha-cha, mambo, cumbia, and reggaeton.
Harrell has led dance and movement classes for more than 30 years, but when she experienced her first Zumba class in 2010, she was hooked. “I fell in love with Zumba fitness, attending classes five to six times a week, and wherever I traveled nationally or abroad,” she says. The following year she became licensed to teach both Zumba and Zumba Gold. Because Santa Cruz has an abundance of excellent Zumba instructors, she chose to focus on Gold classes to serve the untapped population of potential students.
Carolyn Stallard, a Tai Chi instructor, says that after her first class she went home and soaked in Epsom salts. “Soon after, I started to catch on, sometimes even doing the right steps, and realized that this is brain exercise as well as body exercise. The rhythms are infectious, and I find it impossible to stand still once the music starts; but the real draw is Harrell,” Stallard says. “Her smile lights up the whole room, lifting us all with her clear joy in movement, her inventiveness in choreography, and her expert cueing.”
Joy Prouty and Josie Gardiner, based at Zumba headquarters in Florida, are co-developers of the Gold program, along with Zumba creative director, Beto Perez. Their credo is: “Zumba is exercise in disguise.” It’s designed to be a party, and who doesn’t like having a good time? A good time is what Harrell’s students are having.
Marsha McCrory, who has danced with Harrell for almost four years, saw an ad for the class and decided that joining a Zumba Gold class was something she needed to do. “My inner dancer was hidden pretty deeply, and movement came slowly,” she says. “Adrienne was so patient, caring and non-judgmental; I just kept going back. I learned it was safe and fun to be present in my body and my range of motion increased. Adrienne boogies down with the great music she chooses. Her smile and presence light up the room.”
The Zumba regimen uses interval training, meaning that routines do not demand constant high-energy movement. Harrell says her selected playlist takes pacing of tempo into account.
“At the end of every class, I’ve worked up a good sweat. and my heart is full of joy and peace,” she says.
Zumba’s creators believe that most of us dance to feel good, relieve stress or get our heart rates going, but the pursuit of fitness can have positive effects on long-term health, as well. A study conducted by The New England Journal of Medicine suggests that leisure activities such as dancing result in a reduced risk of developing dementia. The impact level of Zumba Gold is just right for many adults, and the class draws a lot of seniors. Hamsa Harriet Hilker, 86, was looking for a new Zumba class after dropping out of one that was too athletic for her body.
“After finding Harrell, I took off like a rocket,” says Hilker. “She is contagious.”
Harrell’s classes are held from 6-6:50 p.m. on Monday and Wednesday at the Capitola Recreation Center, 4400 Jade St., Capitola. A discount is given to Capitola residents, and also to seniors age 62 or older.
5 Simple Tips for Stress-Free Zumba
1 Have a nutritious meal with protein an hour or two before class to sustain energy. Bring a healthy snack for after class.
2 Wear proper shoes to keep the strain off ankles and knees. Lightweight shoes without pronounced ridges are best. It is not recommended to dance Zumba in bare feet.
3 Consider comfort and ease of movement when choosing dancewear, ranging from snug to loose.
4 Stay hydrated.
5 Keep movements toned down until it feels right to step up intensity. It’s all too easy to get carried away and burn out before class is over.