By BRIDGET BALCH
Upbeat, rhythmic music blasts, reverberating off the walls of the room full of sweaty people gyrating their hips to the beat. No, this is not an off-campus party about to be busted by the cops, or even the Bourbon Room at 1 a.m. on a Saturday. It’s an exercise class.
Every Tuesday at 6:15 p.m., students fill Goolrick Hall’s Dance Studio 4 to attend Zumba, a Latin-inspired, dance-fitness trend that has exploded in popularity over the last few years.
The classes are often overcrowded to the point where students accidentally whack each other in the shoulder and step on each other’s feet, but this doesn’t stop them from having fun.
Dani Hoffman, who teaches Zumba at the University of Mary Washington, is extremely popular with the girls for her enthusiastic and fun interaction with her students. It is even rumored that the men’s crew team’s mysterious visits to her Zumba class might have had something to do with her as well.
“Not only does Dani have a great body, but she also has a remarkable spirit,” said Abbey Doherty, a junior English major, “she smiles while she works out. It’s contagious. I fully admit my girl crush for Dani.”
Hoffman, 33, says that, initially, she resisted jumping on the Zumba bandwagon. She got certified to teach cardio kickboxing 11 years ago when she was a student at UMW. She had loved taking the class that the fitness center offered and, when it no longer fit into her class schedule, she decided to get certified, in order to make it fit.
Now, a graduate with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and business and a master’s in business management from the Stafford campus, she is a manager of systems analysis for a company in Northern Virginia. In the 11 years since she first got certified to teach kickboxing, she has also collected certifications in Pilates, step, high intensity interval training, chair Pilates, Pilboxing (a combination of Pilates and kickboxing) and Zumba.
After receiving multiple requests from students that the Fitness Center offer Zumba, Hoffman’s boss finally insisted that she get licensed to teach the class.
“I’m kind of glad I listened,” Hoffman said. “[Zumba is] kind of my favorite class to teach…for now.”
She loves how involved her students get in the moves and music, smiling and cheering when they hear their favorite song come on.
To be licensed to teach Zumba, Hoffman had to attend an eight-hour class and pay a monthly fee. As a licensed instructor, she receives a CD with new music on even months and a DVD with new choreography on odd months. Hoffman is at liberty to modify, combine and personalize the choreography as much as she likes.
While, at first, it usually took her an hour and a half to learn the new choreography in front of her TV at home, Hoffman says she can get it down in half an hour now, despite her husband’s teasing whenever she struggles to learn a move. Although teaching exercise classes makes Hoffman extremely busy, limiting her to running one marathon last year, instead of the two she had hoped to run, she thinks it is worth it.
“That’s going to be my me time,” Hoffman said. “I really love it, or else I wouldn’t do it.”