Luck, timing led to new exercise phenomenon


So, just in case you’ve haven’t heard about it yet, let me give you the skinny on Zumba.

Way back in the ’90s, when aerobic classes were still in vogue, Alberto “Beto” Perez, an aerobics instructor and native of Cali, Colombia, rushed off to teach his morning aerobics class leaving his aerobics music at home.

Being the resourceful type, he grabbed his own music tapes — it was the ’90s after all — out of his backpack and improvised a fitness class that incorporated dance and fitness moves to his salsa, merengue and cumbia mixes. And voila, Zumba was born.

His students loved the new routines that included lots of hip shaking and no monotonous linear movements and monotonous counting of movements.

So much so that they begged him to repeat it every time he came to class. This accidental new fitness class was a big hit and may have helped him make his way to Miami where in 2001 a student introduced him to her son and fellow Colombian, Alberto Perlman and then to Alberto Aghion, another Colombian.

The three Albertos founded Zumba Fitness soon after, trademarked the word, Zumba, which I’ve heard in Colombian slang means buzzing around like a bee.

Fast forward 12 years. Zumba has become a worldwide phenomenon “with more than 14 million people of all shapes, sizes and ages taking weekly Zumba classes in over 140,000 locations across more than 150 countries,” according to

My own personal journey with Zumba began in 2007 when I took my first class from Veronica in Gainesville, Fla., where I lived after receiving my master’s in Spanish from the University of Florida.

I will admit that I have always loved to dance, having been forced to take ballet lessons when I was quite young because my mother thought it would help me be more graceful. Yet, being a Jersey girl, born and bred in Newark, I knew nothing about Latin music and dance until I began studying Spanish language and culture in 1997.

Zumba has been a life-changing experience for me and I will share more with you in my next column.

Zumba instructor Caite York can be reached at 352-871-8782.


Log in to comment