They shook their booties. They moved and grooved in unison as their hair flipped up, down and sideways.
To mark the new year and help encourage healthy resolutions, the Highland Recreation Center hosted a Zumbalicious Dance Party last weekend. Fifty-five revelers gathered to celebrate Zumba, the fitness workout that incorporates Latin rhythm, dance and aerobic exercise.
"I smile the whole time,'' said Rosemary Previch, 38, a regular Zumba participant who attended the bash with her teenage daughter, Cassidy. "It's the type of exercise that keeps me sane.''
Another Zumbalicious participant, Stephanie Miller, recalled starting her Zumba regime after seeing it featured on a nightly newscast five years ago. She stuck with it because of her love of dance.
"It doesn't feel like a workout,'' she said.
Zumba started in the mid 1990s with Beto Perez, a Colombian fitness instructor. The story goes that Perez arrived to teach a class but forgot his music.
Little did he know that when he substituted Latin music that he grabbed from his car stereo, a fitness craze was born.
"I've seen Beto several times,'' said Nancy Hills, Highland's head Zumba instructor. "Beto says that to do Zumba is to experience joy. You come to have fun and yet you get the benefits of exercise.''
As a certified Zumba instructor, Hills receives music and choreographed programs every other month. Her classes combine salsa, meringue, cha-cha and rumba.
Hills first realized she had a passion for teaching fitness classes as a teenager growing up in Hazelbury Bryan, a village in Dorset, England.
"I was 16, and I got caught up in the whole Jane Fonda craze. I started a Jane Fonda class for free over one summer,'' said Hills, who also works with teachers as a math and science coach at Frontier Elementary School.
This month, Hills is adding another fitness class to her resume, Zumba Intervals. It will incorporate Zumba with weight training.
"It's a slower pace combining weights with a little less choreography,'' she said.
But rest assured, participants will have plenty of opportunity to break a move.
"There's always dance in Zumba,'' she said.
Reach Piper Castillo at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-7163.