If the Purchase Phys Ed requirement is giving you flashbacks of running the mile in high school, then fear no more: Zumba is on its way.
The Zumba fitness program is a worldwide project that uses Latin and international dance music to give you the most fun workout of your life. Right now, Purchase offers four weekly Zumba classes in the aerobics studio on the second floor of the gym. And this spring semester, Zumba class will be offered as a Phys Ed course for credit.
Suzi Myers Tipa, the adorable woman who teaches the weekly class, will also be on the Purchase payroll this spring as the “Professor of Zumba,” as she likes to call it. She has been involved at Purchase through the summer acting program since 2001. Tipa’s long and involved history in international dance, her years of studying acting at prestigious universities, her co-founding of the not-for-profit professional dance company, World Dance Theater, and the past year she has spent with the Zumba company, assures that she will be a positive influence on the Purchase campus.
“Everyone can dance,” says Tipa with her contagious and genuine smile that can keep a room of 30 or more Purchase students happy and shaking it for a straight hour of serious cardio workout. If your self-consciousness comes from someone having once told you that you can’t dance, a Zumba class is all you need to prove it to yourself that nothing has ever been farther from the truth.
“Society is so fast, it’s all about instant gratification,” Tipa says. Zumba though provides a safe place, a “no inhibitions zone,” where the gratification comes from the enjoyment of being able to challenge yourself. “Drumming is in our blood,” she says of the music. “Music of every culture has percussion.” Whether it is a Zumba original like the salsa/reggaeton “Zumbalicious,” or the popular Hindi song from Slumdog Millionaire, “Jai Ho,” the song selection reflects the international feel and invigorating atmosphere.
Ernie Palmieri, the Director of Physical Education, Recreation, and Athletics at Purchase, always looking for new aerobic conditioning ideas for the Recreation Program offered in the gym, played a roll in bringing one of the nation’s fastest growing trends to our gymnasium. When the money to pay an instructor became available, Zumba class became part of the curriculum.
“[Zumba] gives an opportunity for the general student body to enjoy a dance form combined with aerobic conditioning which contributes to the health and wellness of our students, faculty and staff,” says Palmieri. “A healthy community is one of my major goals for Purchase College and our curriculum and recreation programs.”
The campus may very well have the same goals, seeing as each week, the class attendance grows in size. And despite the concentrated faces of the students trying to keep up with the face paced, fresh and challenging routine, every song’s ending is accompanied by hoots and hollers, smiles and clapping, and an exchanging of glances that depict the intense sense of accomplishment. Who wouldn’t be proud of those last four minutes? Most people don’t sweat that much doing . . . anything.
Freshman Brielle Schiavone may be undeclared and new to Purchase, but when it comes to Zumba dancing, she is no beginner. Four years of attending the classes offered near her home in Colts Neck, N.J., has got her “totally and completely hooked.” She intends to take the spring class and is on the path to becoming a certified instructor.
“Zumba gives me the opportunity to push my limits and it gets me motivated,”
Schiavone says. “Being on the treadmill only burns 200 calories, working off that yogurt I ate this morning.” Zumba class is what she looks forward to every week, twice a week, and like many other enthusiasts, she is constantly succeeding in convincing her friends to join.
Every class has new students, either new to the class or new to Zumba itself. Tipa keeps the music up beat and the routines fresh, with repetitious steps so newcomers and returners alike are comfortable and enjoying the time they spend with her. More than anything else, she embodies the Zumba motto, “Ditch the workout, Join the party!”