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Sun Prairie dances the days away
Zumba, ballroom dance styles gaining local popularity
By Kaitlin Warriner
Just because Sun Prairie is tucked away in the middle of the Heartland doesn’t mean its residents aren’t getting a healthy dose of dance moves that are sweeping the coasts.
As the dreariness of winter creeps away and spring approaches, Sun Prairie residents can find their niche in the sophistication of elegant ballroom style or the let-loose atmosphere of Latin-inspired, body-sculpting Zumba.
Both ballroom and Zumba classes are offered through the Sun Prairie Parks, Recreaction and Foresty Department, 2598 W. Main St., while a monthly grab-bag dance class and Body Jam (an infusion of funk and hip-hop) are offered through the Prairie Athletic Club, 1010 N. Bird St.
Sun Prairie Parks, Recreation and Foresty (SPPRF) Recreation Programs Coordinator for the Park and Rec Rebecca Price said a desire for dance classes was identified through multiple requests in the community.
Executive director of Sun Prairie Cable Access, Pam Steitz, was an instigator in making these classes available to Sun Prairie.
“I’m a firm believer of the ‘Use it or lose it’ philosophy,” said Steitz. “If you don’t move your body, it’s going to forget how.”
Zumba: A Latin-infused “feel happy” dance class
According to Price, the jazz and hip-hop class offered through SPPRF last summer was met with such great response, the organization jumped on the chance to offer Zumba -- a hot, new, Latin and international cardio dance used for toning and sculpting.
Zumba originated out of Colombia and earned popularity in Miami from its easy-to-follow dance steps done to international and Latin music.
The style of Zumba dancing is made up of four basic types of dance: Merengue, Salsa, Cumbrio (a Cuban dance with a lot of stomping and hip movement), and Reggatone (more of a boxy, hip-hop, street style of dance).
Steps of Calypso, Flamenco and basic belly dancing are integrated into the dance as well.
“I compare it (Zumba) to all the aerobics you’ve ever done in your life with a Latin flare,” said Zumba instructor Cathy Moscon of Sun Prairie. “It’s fun and it’s more about feeling the rhythm of the music, not so much of the beat.”
Brought to the United States in 1999 by Beto Perez from Colombia, Zumba -- “the feel happy workout” -- is said to not only be great for the body, but the mind as well.
The routines include aerobic and fitness training with a combination of fast and slow movements to tone the body.
Followers of Zumba are known to burn large amount of calories and fat cells while achieving an all-over sculpted body.
“It’s definitely good for everything,” said Moscon.
According to Moscon, Zumba was introduced to the United States by mistake.
“The story goes that Beto, the aerobics instructor in Miami, forgot his music one day for his planned class,” said Moscon. “So he grabbed some Latin music he had in his car and brought it into the class and just started dancing.”
The rest is history; the dance craze has been sweeping the Midwest, California and Florida since its inception.
“The class is very user-friendly ... it’s all about you,” said Moscon. “We tell people in the class to hang up their inhibitions at the door. It’s really fun. I think it’s going to be a really big thing. I think it’s going to be a huge thing.”
“It’s a bold dance. It’s a bold exercise,” said Steitz. “The dance is a celebration, so you do a lot of those celebration kind of moves.”
Steitz said she plans to take ballroom when it fits her schedule.
“Anything that they give, I’ll be there,” Steitz said. “Anything that gets me out and gets me moving, I’ll do.
Madison resident Connie Reeves has been competing competitively in ballroom dancing for many years and has been teaching the style for 15 years. She also has experience in jazz, tap and belly dancing.
So it makes sense that Reeves is the instructor for SPPRF four-week-long Thursday night ballroom dance class held at the Westside Community Service building.
“I really enjoy the interaction with people and seeing that lightbulb when it goes off,” Reeves said of teaching. “Usually one partner is willing and the other one is being dragged here. One of my biggest accomplishments is when a guy, who would rather go to the dentist and have his teeth pulled out than take dance lessons, says that he had fun. I feel like I’ve changed their lives, because the couple can now interact on a different level.”
Price said the response for ballroom dance classes -- $25 for an individual and $42 for a couple -- has been overwhelming.
“We were hoping for six couples, but 10 couples have signed up and there’s 15 people on the waiting list,” said Price.
Reeves said she has high school and college students enrolled in her classes, as well as engaged couples and couples that have been together for years.
Reeves teaches a beginning and advanced class at the Westside Building.
“Beginners come in with a blank slate,” said Reeves. “For the most part, the first week is the hardest, we learn four dances that day. They’re going to feel a little overwhelmed, but by the second week it starts to become repetitive, like walking or riding a bike, and I can literally put music on and they will just start dancing.”
The type of music played depends on the type of dance. Jazz for Foxtrotting, waltzs for Waltzing and anything fast for Swing.
The classes are organized into half-instructional and half-practice and participants are encouraged to wear a smooth-soled shoe and comfortable clothing, “whatever that means to them,” Reeves said.
The hardest part about ballroom dancing?
“Getting over that hurdle where you’re willing to try and step out of your comfort zone,” said Reeves. “Once students get over that, they start to relax and have fun. That’s where the learning really starts to begin.”
Reeves encourages dancers to continue dancing after the class is over, whether it’s through more training or just good old fashioned practice. The results are too good to pass up.
“I like to say dancing is my drug of choice,” Reeves said. “It’s very physical, very social and very emotional. A lot of people that are hooked on it are very emotional and passionate about it.
“At the same time, there’s something about getting out on the dance floor when I’ve had a bad day that just makes it all go away. It takes you to a different place.
Connie Reeves (608) 335-2982 firstname.lastname@example.org