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New York Times

July 10, 2008

J. Emilio Flores for The New York Times

With a name like Zumba, the exercise class defined by its Latin rhythms and party atmosphere was not exactly an easy sell at first. “Zumba?” people would ask. (It connotes buzzing like a bee, or going fast, in Spanish.) Worse, it could have run the course of any other fitness fad: Word of mouth excitement. Feverish following. Media attention. Hardcore fans. Then on to the next fitness craze.

But five years after arriving in gyms and dance studios, Zumba Fitness (www.zumba.com) keeps expanding, most recently into schools, senior centers and unconquered territory like New York City, and some foreign markets. A session of Zumba, a cardio-dance routine, can feel like a trip to the nightclub of a cruise ship, where a well-toned crew member teaches you to wiggle your hips and do the fast footwork for a mix of dance styles to the thump of loud music. While Zumba crowds are not plied with alcohol, people often throw away inhibitions — they pump their arms, applaud, let out “yeahs” — as they work out.

More than 3.5 million Zumba DVDs have sold through infomercials and about 20,000 instructors in 40 countries now teach Zumba, 15,000 of those in the United States, said Alberto Perlman, the chief executive of Zumba Fitness, in Hollywood, Fla.