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Dancing Her Way Fit; Brooke Blair '99

Brooke Blair

Merengue, salsa, cumbia, reggaeton, belly dancing, hip hop, cha cha…if you hate to exercise but love to dance, Brooke Blair '99 can show you how to stay fit.

Blair isn't a dancer; she's never even taken a dance class. Blair is a Zumba® master.

Zumba® is an exercise class that uses Latin and international moves and rhythms. "It's really more like going to a club or a party than to a gym," Blair says.

With approximately 500 to 1,000 calories being burned per hour, its fun, body-energizing movements are meant to engage and captivate participants, and at the same time tone and sculpt the body, and burn fat. Blair, a multicertified fitness instructor who also teaches fitness classes such as 20/20/20, Boot Camp and weightlifting, exudes enthusiasm as she talks about the benefits of Zumba®. "I'm 10 pounds lighter than when I used to teach the other classes!" she exclaims.

Blair was certified to teach Zumba® in 2007, and in 2008, her class at the Cherry Hill Health and Racquet Ball Club in Cherry Hill, N.J., won Best of Philly from Philadelphia Magazine.

While it's the newest fitness craze to hit gyms, Blair says her goal is to keep it from being a passing fad, which is probably not hard to do. As of May 2010, the Zumba® program is being taught at more than 60,000 locations in 105 countries, has sold millions of DVDs, and has approximately 7.5 million participants taking Zumba® classes every week.

"This is for anyone who hates to exercise or loves to dance. It's for people who are just getting into fitness, for all ages, for all shapes, for anyone looking to have a good time," she says.

Best of all, it's not just good for the body, she says, it's also good for the mind. In her first year as a Zumba® instructor, Blair's 2-year-old son had an accident that left him with a traumatic brain injury with permanent and severe damage. Her marriage fell apart and her world felt like it was caving in around her. On challenging days, the Zumba® program helps her "escape to a better place. It's therapeutic," she says. "If you've had a bad day you pump up the music and just start dripping sweat. It takes me away, even if just for an hour."

For those lacking in dancing ability, Blair says the most important thing is to listen to the music. "It doesn't matter if you're moving left or right or doing the same move. The key is to just move and have fun," she says. "It's less about knowing the steps, more about feeling the music."

A political science major at Albright, Blair also teaches Spanish to kindergarten through fifth graders at Berlin (N.J.) Community School, and seventh and eighth graders at Somerdale (N.J.) Park School.

Blair's Zumba® class is offered at the Ripa Center for Women, Virtua William Rohrer Fitness Center and Versa Fit Studio in Voorhees, N.J., Magnolia Academy of Dance in Somerdale, N.J., and the Cherry Hill (N.J.) Health and Racquet Ball Club.

– Jennifer Post Stoudt

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