Teraji: Dancing for fitness – and to help Gilroy High

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Zumba at Gilroy Health and Fitness

For enterprising Gilroy High freshman class vice president, Juan Davalos, working out is not a solitary activity meant to benefit only oneself. It’s a high-energy party intended to benefit hundreds of your friends. And this Saturday he says you’re all invited to the party.

The freshmen class of Gilroy High School is hosting a Zumba dance fundraiser to cover costs of supplies and activities that the class enjoys doing together all year long in a team effort. One example is the float they constructed together for homecoming this year, which won second place in the homecoming competition.

But such efforts put them in the hole, and this Saturday’s Zumba party in the high school cafeteria is Davalos’ creative way for the freshmen class to raise much-needed funds.

“Zumba is high-energy music, lights, and exercising, but having fun at the same time,” Davalos described.

He said he has loved the dance workout to all kinds of music, from salsa to hip hop to gumbia, since he was 13 and his mom took him to the local gym Gilroy Health and Fitness.

Young people these days have to be proactive in raising their own funds for school activities, so he has arranged for five different Gilroy Health and Fitness dance instructors to lead the dance workout, and his cousin Jesse will deejay the dance party. Safeway has donated water for the event. He also solicited local merchants for gift certificates, which will be raffled off at the fundraiser.

My friend Nancy Headley will be one of the instructors volunteering on Saturday, and she is always enthusiastically telling me about all the good being done by the many activities being held at Gilroy Health and Fitness to give back to the community. The Zumba class charges a small fee to participate and raises funds for worthy causes such as fighting breast cancer.

At a recent fundraiser, they all wore purple as they danced for research funds for Alzheimer’s. On Dec. 15, Davalos and Headley’s Zumba group will sponsor a dance party to benefit Toys for Tots at Gilroy Health and Fitness.

Even though the freshman class fundraiser will take place at the high school’s cafeteria, Ondy Gamble, Gilroy High School activities director, said the community outside of the school is welcome and encouraged to attend.

“From small to old,” Davalos said. “What does it matter? Everyone can join in.”

A unique aspect of Zumba is that it is tailored to all ages and sizes. In the Zumba class at Gilroy Health and Fitness led by Jennifer Ehrenberger, Davalos and his fellow students range from teenage to senior citizen.

He goes to a regular Zumba class on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but the Monday Zumba class is a toning class done with weights. There are also aqua Zumba classes where the dance moves are done in water. He says chair dance Zumba is being developed for those who are handicapped or limited in movement.

“When you first try it, the gym gives you a free membership for a week, and we will break it down for you,” he says of the dance routines.

Although he does it for fun, Davalos says that participating in Zumba means he never has to worry about weight.

“I can easily lose a pound a week,” he said. “If I eat too much on the weekend and gain a little weight, I notice my clothes are loose again by Thursday.”

Nancy Headley said she has seen others in her Zumba group lose hundreds of pounds, while having a lot of fun doing it. Zumba helps her maintain her slim and trim figure.

“But it’s much more than a class,” Davalos told me. “At our Gilroy Zumba fundraisers, people come from as far away as Santa Cruz and San Jose to participate,” Davalos said. We are a community that supports the activities held by other Zumba groups, so we go to each others’ fundraisers whenever we can. We have fun meeting new people. We get together and everyone is talking to everyone.”

Davalos said Zumba is a big deal internationally. Although Latin-inspired, Zumba combines elements from the music of many different nations, giving it an infectious vibe that has global appeal. He attended this summer’s annual Zumba Fitness Convention in Orlando, Fla., which brings thousands of people from all over the world to dance together.

The Zumba family is nationwide and worldwide,” Davalos said. “They come from China, Africa, Latin America,” he said. “Zumba is peacemaking; it brings everyone together.”

“People have been talking about this a lot, so we expect to sell a lot of tickets at the door,” Davalos said.

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