Peter Cintron, known to followers as Zumba Pete, stood before a snowy mountain range. A road to nowhere wound behind him like a Kipling poem. He gripped a bandana and addressed his virtual Zumba class.
“I want you to bring that attitude, because that is what we are here for! We can’t be in class, but this is the class!”
Yes, Zumba Pete. We had just started and he was already playing Fireball by Pitbull. The students were stationed in living rooms, patios and kitchens, moving inside the bricks of a Zoom meeting.
“Are we ready? I can’t hear you!”
Home workouts during COVID-19 quarantine can be the pits. The carpet is linty. The coffee table is sharp. The couch is comfy. How is anyone supposed to get motivated?
Maybe Zumba Pete could restore us. I am not a Zumba person, but not too long ago, I took high-intensity interval training classes from Pete at Crunch Fitness in Clearwater.
He’s the opposite of isolation. He learns names. He hugs. He takes sweaty selfies. He has been known to hunch behind punching bags and yell, “Hit it like someone’s trying to take your money!”
Zumba, a dance workout that combines salsa, reggaeton, merengue and cumbia rhythms, is his passion. I’ve watched him run, literally run from the weight floor to lead a packed hall of people swiveling their hips.
By day, he runs a mobile auto detailing business. He also does some work with precast stone — fireplaces, columns, things like that. Pete, 48, did not grow up musically inclined and never trained in dance. Ten years ago, in the midst of a divorce, a friend convinced him to take a class.
“Oh my God,” he said after. “I want to do it again.”
He trained for his Zumba license and has spent the last eight years teaching at gyms. When he heard about the coronavirus, he started formulating a backup plan without one. It was 8:07 p.m. on March 18 when he got word that class was canceled. He sent a message to students.
“We’re going live.”
Teaching Zumba requires about 6 feet in front and back and 9 feet on either side, so he pushed his sofa and dining table to the walls. He balanced his tablet on a laptop and balanced that on an air fryer. He got the angle. He made it work.
Since those first classes, he’s started filming inside an empty building. He changes the Zoom background, taking class to Egypt, New York, Italy, sandy beaches.
He’s not charging, only accepting donations. His detailing business has dried up by 90 percent in the pandemic, and times are not easy for Zumba Pete. But he’s a silver linings guy, thrilled to have new students from around the world.
Last Saturday, some 60 people logged on. Pete danced in his yellow, Zumba-branded sneakers, gradually increasing the complexity of his combos. Dancers dropped messages into the chat. “Hi fam! I miss you guys!” Pete played Bad Bunny’s Yo Perreo Sola, which means “I twerk alone.”
It turns out I am very bad at Zumba. But my silver lining is that I got to try it at home, where the only one who could see was the neighbor building a chin-up bar next door.
Anyway, it doesn’t matter. We’re here for Pete’s positive affirmations, that sweet layer of can-do spread on a full body roll. For the George Bernard Shaw quotes he posts on Instagram. For the courage to get off the couch in an era when each movement feels like a victory.
It was time for the cool down. He turned to the alps behind him.
“The road of life has twists and turns. We never know where the road is going to go.”
Yes, Pete. Fortify us.
“That road takes you to any destination you want. It’s up to you to decide where you go.”
He made a heart with his hands and asked everyone to do the same. It was time for a sweaty selfie.
Take the class
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