Did you know that Zumba is approaching it’s 10th year in Australia and New Zealand?
Zumba didn’t just change the rules around exercise to music, it brought in a whole new game!
Anyone could get involved with teaching Zumba, there were no prerequisite qualifications required. Instructors could teach anywhere – they were not restricted to gyms. And rather than exercise, for participants, it was more like dance.
Zumba Master Trainers are like Rock Stars. And it’s with enormous gratitude that I’m able to share a guest post from the Rock Star that brought Zumba to Australia and New Zealand, Maria Teresa Stone. Vámonos, Maria…
Back in 2009 we were the “new kids on the block”, the new program, many thought we were a fad, but I knew better….
I became a Zumba instructor in 2006, trained by my sister Eliza Stone in San Diego, CA. Coming from Mexico, I have done lots of my group fitness education in the USA supported by another sister Carmen Aida Stone, yes, 3 of us in my family fell in love with this industry. Together we’ve always made sure to learn the latest from the best. It was no exception with Zumba. This program combined the best from my favourite two worlds: Dance and fitness.
In 2007 I auditioned to become a Zumba master trainer for Mexico. In that audition I met the creator, Beto Perez. My first impressions…. Humility. Beto went through the room shaking hands and saying hello one-by-one, he was approachable and professional. I got the job and started running instructor training sessions in Mexico.
After marrying my ‘Kiwi’ boyfriend we moved to New Zealand. The Zumba program did not exist in New Zealand in 2008, therefore I had to start from scratch. I approached gyms in Christchurch but none were ready to take on a “new” program. It was very different to what they were offering, which was basically an athletic style of step, spinning or boxing class.
I was happy to teach freestyle group fitness sessions to get my foot in the door. It wasn’t long though before I began to get a bit impatient.
That’s when I started renting spaces; community centres, dance studios, etc. to teach Zumba classes. I became my own boss and explored what it felt like to be an entrepreneur. The risk…. Not getting paid for a couple of months until I built the business, very rewarding though. I was still teaching group fitness at a couple of different gyms. I was getting more confident with what I was doing and feeling more settled in my new country.
I spoke with Zumba CEO, Alberto Perlman, and he advised me to open the first instructor training program in New Zealand.
In April 2009 I taught the first Zumba instructor training in Hamilton, New Zealand with 12 enthusiasts. That was followed by a SOLD OUT training session with a whopping 60 people at the July 2009 Sydney training. This, and repeated sell out sessions, were a direct result of the exposure provided by infomercials in both Australia and New Zealand.
Gyms that had said ‘NO’ to Zumba classes in the beginning now had to open the class due to member demand – That’s when I knew we’d cracked the market and were here to stay! People wanted Zumba. They wanted their “happy workout”.
The fitness industry “down under” had not seen anything like it before, they did not know what to do with us.
We were breaking the mould. With Zumba, instructors could get a license to teach classes anywhere they wanted to: gyms, health clubs, dance studios, community centres, church halls, anywhere…. We were (and still are) getting the most inactive people active. Those that thought that exercise was hard or boring came to a Zumba class to “shimmy, smile and sweat” all in one place!
I was travelling all the time to Australia, so in April 2010 we moved the family to Sydney. It was a great career decision, I have been able to work closely with gym chains and of course with the instructor community to keep the program going. We were creating an ecosystem that was sustainable; training new instructors, supporting the existing ones, providing them with information and education on what to do, and where to do it. This is why Zumba’s continuing education program (ZIN) is gold!!! With ZIN instructors are able to stay up-do-date and keep their classes fresh, fun and effective.
In 2016, the unexpected happened. I was awarded the roll of honour for my contribution to the fitness industry in Australia. I say unexpected because I don’t do what I do to get awards, I do what I do to get people moving, moving from the inside out. For me, the greatest joy in receiving the award was its recognition of the Zumba community.
Next year will be the 10th anniversary of Zumba in New Zealand and Australia.
That’s 10 years of being the gateway for many people to fitness. I am a proud Zumba instructor, I am a proud Zumba Education Specialist, I am proud of getting people to move in a fun and effective way, I am proud of being part of positive change in this world….
Maria Teresa Stone.