By Laura Hoover
Sometimes people come into your life at the right time. Recently, a lady by the name of LaCountess Felder came into mine. She’s the new Zumba instructor at the Water Tower Recreation Center, and she’s taught me a thing or two in the past couple of weeks.
Zumba, for those who don’t know, is a hot new fitness craze. Inspired by Latin dance, the whole motto is “ditch the workout, join the party.” For Felder, 39, that means not only salsa and merengue but a little Michael Jackson and Ike and Tina Turner. She even has her teenage daughter deejay. And she’s inspired quite a crew of residents and neighbors since the class began in April.
“It’s rewarding for me to see other people having a good time,” said Felder, a Northeast Philly resident with a corporate day job. “The human body is just an awesome machine. If you take care of it, it takes care of you.”
There are other places in the city to take Zumba that are fancier, shinier and more expensive. But this class, held in the Water Tower’s after-school program room, is near my house and the right price. And Zumba is anything but boring. I spent seven months on an elliptical while pregnant, and after a long, lonely winter, I needed something different to get me back into fitness.
Enter LaCountess. Dressing in all black and owning a killer smile, she says it’s OK to just move, and that means shimmying, booty circles and the fast-paced, arm-waving romp to “Rolling on the River” (Tina Turner’s version).
A cancer survivor, she tried Zumba at her own Center City gym two years ago and thought, “I can do this.” She completed her training in February and approached the Water Tower after her daughter was enrolled in a class there.
Some of us in the class are embarrassingly bad, but she doesn’t look away. “When I see someone who isn’t getting it, I think how can I break this down more so they can have fun?” she said. “It’s about the music. Nothing brings people together like music.”
She’s right. On May 3, more than 600 schools across the country participated in a coordinated dance routine by Beyonce to support the First Lady’s “Let’s Move” anti-obesity campaign.
I’m no middle schooler, just a new mom who apparently needs to get out and dance. So how long will Zumba last? “As long as people are going and enjoying it,” said Joe Brogan, director at the Water Tower.
Chestnut Hill resident Laura Beitman Hoover worked as a reporter for almost 10 years in Baltimore, Md., near Dartmouth College in New Hampshire and in Philadelphia before going into public relations at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. Her blog, “Home For A Year,” can be found at http://homeforayear.wordpress.com/