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Shake it up and stretch it out


Exercising with a group of strangers? Pass. Attending a dance party with a group of strangers? Yes. Somehow combine the two to create a unique experience that breaks down your self-conscious nature as well as your body fat? Zumba!

“If you talk with children and ask them if they can dance, they will almost always say ‘Yes!’ and start showing off their moves. But for some reason we get self-conscious as adults and lose that joy for dancing and moving,” said Emilene Leone, instructor. “Zumba gives people a chance to dance in a comfortable, non-judgmental, accepting atmosphere. People are able to discover their love of dancing through Zumba, and that’s a wonderful thing to see. No rhythm necessary.”

Emilene Leone gets to combine her two greatest passions—dance and fitness—teaching Zumba!

Emilene Leone gets to combine her two greatest passions—dance and fitness—teaching Zumba!

As with any sort of aerobic exercise, the benefits of Zumba are far reaching. Along with burning calories and excess body fat, regular exercise also leads to increased cardiovascular health, reduced stress levels, improved mood and better coordination and confidence.

“But one of my favorite benefits is the social benefit,” Leone said. “I’ve met so many wonderful friends who would not have been in my life if I hadn’t met them in Zumba class.”

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Another great thing about Zumba is that equipment is not needed to get started. Those unfamiliar to the class should simply wear comfortable clothing to move in.

“If they want to roll in with bedhead and pajama pants, that’s fine by me,” Leone said.

As far as shoes go, sometimes turns will be easier if participants are wearing sneakers designed for dance, aerobics or cross training, but really, anything that offers some cushioning and support will be fine. Other than that, bring a water bottle and sweat towel.

“We will sweat and get down and laugh,” Leone said. “In any fitness class I teach, my goal as an instructor is to try and see that my participants feel better when they leave than they did when they walked in. Yes, they might be sweatier, maybe a little bit more tired than when they walked in, but I want them to leave feeling satisfied and proud that they chose to come and do good things for their health by working out.”

In addition to the teaching this class, Leone is also offering a yoga class immediately following Zumba.

“I think Zumba and yoga, although very different from each other, can be a wonderful complement to each other. It feels so wonderful to warm the body up through cardio, then move right into a nice yoga practice to cool down and stretch,” Leone said. “In 90 minutes, you can get your Zumba on, then get your yoga on, then you are good to go.”


Sundays (starting Dec. 14) at 9 a.m.: Zumba, 45-minute class, followed by a 45- minute yoga class ($5 per class or $10 for both classes) at The Des Moines Ballroom, 2745 Douglas Ave.



Emilene is a huge Prince fan.

“Prince is the man! I’ve always admired his personality and how he just does his own thing no matter what the current trends are. A true musical genius — singer, songwriter, producer, amazing musician — and the man can dance! He is funky! If you are listening to a Prince album and don’t start moving at least a little at some point to it, you might want to check your pulse.”

David Rowley is an Iowa native with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Iowa and a master’s in film journalism from the University of Glasgow in Scotland.

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