Take a water break from the high-powered Zumba(R) class between songs at Dance Spa and your path to the water fountain will be lined with smiling faces…
Whatever had first brought you to Zumba, the reason why you’ll return to Dance Spa is that each class fills you with joy and spirit---and not just a little. We are talking about massive infusions of endorphins and all happy juices to take you through long Chicago winters or personal crises of all kinds.
True of all Zumba classes? Having taken classes in many cities and by many instructors I would say “Sure Zumba is always fun, but Dance Spa goes above and beyond ..”
Why? Ask instructor Christa South and she’ll tell you that there is a universal formula for Zumba classes, viz. 70% international style music and 30% instructor choice-- rock, hip hop, whatever. That means instructors can choose whatever music they want. And then she confides, “Well I guess the difference is that I’m entertaining to watch and I also bring me and my goofy and stupid ways to the class. I’m not afraid to make fun of myself and make it up as I go…”
And fun it is!
Christa throws a lot into her mescla of Zumba material--- salsa, meringue, Bollywood, gansta rap, swing, and more. The wide assortment of dance moves in her classes is not accidental, but rather a reflection of her training in many dance forms and a dance education emphasizing adaptability to all kinds of performance and movements.
You’ll find women from all over Chicago –teens to septuagenarians by the looks of it--and some suburban commuters in this fun class. All races, all ethnicities—we just have one thing in common, which is a love of fun dance moves.
Yes, many of us are there on the front lines of that eternal battle to lose or maintain weight. You’ll see pregnant women modifying moves. Then there was the bridal party swapping a tutu and giggles as the tracks changed. The tall and striking 30-something classically trained ballet dancer is there trying to learn to loosen up. Men are in shorter supply but not altogether absent.
For my part, it’s no fun having sciatica for over a year and having one healer after another – orthopedist, physical therapist, massage therapist, acupuncturist—throw up their hands. Nothing had helped and my trusted acupuncturist of many years referenced my hip arthritis by saying “Old woman, body no good!”
“Not that old and not so fast!” I now say to Dr Wu et al.
Within weeks of doing Dance Spa Zumba classes I became arthritis and sciatica-free. Go figure. Rather, go shake your hips and smile.
And then there is Sylvia, seen here smiling because it was the last day of her tamoxifen treatment for breast cancer. She’ll tell you that drawing on the energy from Christa’s Zumba classes was no small part on her path to recovery.
Truth to tell, Christa is more of an accidental Zumba instructor. An offshoot of a non-compete clause in a contract she had with a ballroom instruction business precluded her teaching the ballroom dances she is trained in and has competed in. But exercise classes were a different story, and Zumba was gaining in popularity just when Christa had decided to strike it out on her own.
While it’s an accident that Christa became a Zumba instructor per se, when you find out that she has been dancing and performing since she was 2 ½ years old, you know that her spritely joy dance performance has decades of training behind it.
It all started when her parents spied toddler Christa dancing in front of the TV. They then whisked wee Christa into dance classes for somewhat older kids because her grandmother in the small town of Marshall, Michigan knew the dance teacher and could pull a few strings.
Nature or nurture? We’ll never know how much of which made Christa into the performer-as-Zumba-teacher and ballroom dance instructor she is today. After all, both her parents were theater majors in college and only through happenstance didn’t pursue careers in the arts. They did keep up their skills and performing inclinations in community theater productions. Christa was only in first grade when she too had a part in the local theater, playing alongside her Mom who was cast as Annie in “Annie Get Your Gun”.
Ballet, tap, jazz—Christa loved it all. When she was four she won her first dance competition, bringing home a trophy almost as big as she was.
The die was cast when she met Dance Caravan at a dance convention with her mother when she was only 12. Heady stuff for a girl that age to audition and win the chance to tour the country from Knoxville to Las Vegas to Atlanta to Anaheim and Seattle and many places between. She had never even been on an airplane before but after that tour there was one thing young Christa did know—she was a dancer for sure!
And lucky for we drinkers of her Zumba-joy and ballroom dance training that she made that decision so young. It led her to a scholarship at Western Michigan University where the emphasis was placed on ensuring students were well-rounded dancers. From performing at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. to being part of a Chorus Line production and more, Christa earned her stripes. We can readily imagine her smiling in every dance hall and crowd—that same smile she wears every day as her Zumba uniform.
Lucky too that Christa’s post-college “life is a party” stage was relatively short-lived. She worked as a ballroom instructor for four years before getting her ducks in a row to open Dance Spa in 2010.
You’ll also find her teaching a very happy crowd at Salem Baptist Church every Monday. Need to get your moves for your first wedding dance? That’s a Christa special for sure. Or just fun ballroom dancing lessons for couples and singles alike.
Her greatest satisfactions? Christa says, “Every day Sylvia is here or doing Zumba at the Church it especially makes me smile. I know that dancing and being in my class is so healthy for her and I love to see her push the other women who are overweight but not sick to do more. She is so encouraging with her energy.
“Also, I find it so cool that some of my students have become instructors too. They not only took charge of their own fitness but encouraged others to do so too.”
Zumba isn’t for everyone, and Christa will be the first to say so. “If you are used to fitness classes that are tons of squats and pushups then this may not be for you. This is free flow and I’ve had people tell me that they just can’t see it as a workout.”
Go online and you’ll read that the average person burns 700+ calories in an hour of Zumba. That’s a workout by my lights!
Best yet, all of Chicago will get a free sampling of Zumba Christa-style in Millennium Park this summer, every Saturday from July 13 – August 10 during the free exercise programs. No, the grass and crowd won’t give you the same Zumba feel—but it’s a start. You have nothing to lose but some doldrums, pounds or pain.
1890 N Milwaukee Ave.
Chicago, IL, 60647
Monday 9:00am and 6:30pm
Wednesday 9:00am and 7:00pm
Friday 9:00am and 4:30pm
First class - $5
Punch cards available:
10 classes for $100/20 classes for $180
Photo credits: PopSugar, Dance Spa, South family, and Peter Kachergis