Senior Class: Zumba

Latin music thumps from loud speakers. A sweat-drenched group of ten people dance the mambo, cha cha and tango.


But this isn’t a nightclub or an episode of “Dancing with the Stars.” This is a Wednesday morning at the Highland Park Senior Citizen Center.

For two years, about ten people between the ages of 70 and 80 have been meeting weekly at the Center to participate in Zumba, a group exercise class defined by Latin dance moves and south-of-the-border music.

Dance styles covered during the hour-long class include Salsa, Cha Cha, Merengue, Bachata, Mambo, Cumbia and Tango. Instructor Marla Solarz says, “Everyone’s favorite move is the cha cha. It’s easy to do, and they grew up doing it.”

Nonetheless, Solarz has noticed that the group isn’t always so comfortable busting out dance moves. “The good thing is that there isn’t a mirror in the room,” she says. “Still, they don’t want me to face them. I like to think it’s because they like to look at my behind.”

Zumba Gold (“gold” to indicate the age of the dancers) means it’s less intense than a Zumba class geared toward all ages. But low intensity doesn’t mean low calorie. An hour-long Zumba Gold session can burn up to 400 calories.

One bit of advice for seniors interested in trying Zumba? Don’t worry that you won’t be coordinated enough to keep up. “There’s no right or wrong in Zumba. There’s just right and left, and frankly I don’t care which foot you’re on,” Solarz says.

Highland Park resident Ben Abraham, 73, has been attending the class since the first day it was offered (he’s also currently the only man who regularly shows up). “Zumba is a lot more fun than an hour on the treadmill,” he says. “And a lot more fun than some of the slower classes they offer at the Senior Center like yoga. Anyone can do it. If you miss a step or two, so what?”

The Highland Park Senior Citizen Center is located at 54 Laurel Avenue. Zumba Gold runs on Wednesday mornings from 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. The series costs $44 for members and $54 for non-members. Further information can be found by calling 847-432-4110.

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