Dancing and jumping to happy music is always fun when you’re a 10-year-old with energy to spare. The week of Halloween was extra fun – especially when Gabriela Flores, Zumba teacher extraordinaire, showed up in a blue tutu and a bag full of stickers for the kids in the group.
Flores clearly knows her audience. Several mothers looked on, smiling, on a recent Tuesday afternoon as the 23-year-old led five rambunctious youngsters through a set of energetic dance steps, choreographed to the mambo, salsa, and pop beats of the Zumba soundtrack for kids.
“We just laugh and dance together,” said Flores. And they did, with music blasting from a corner of the local school district’s multipurpose room. The kids worked to keep up with Flores on a series of high-energy songs, smiling back at her as they did modified jumping jacks, leg kicks, toe steps and sliding side jumps, punctuated by arm waves and hand claps.
“I like the songs where you have to jump and turn around,” enthused Miguel Mendez, 11.
Flores has been one of Puente’s five Zumba instructors for several years, leading a twice-weekly group of local adults (mostly women) through Pescadero’s version of the national Zumba craze that has people dancing for fitness and fun.
Flores started a new ‘Zumba® Kids’ class in October when she noticed all the moms bringing their kids to Zumba while the mothers danced and the kids looked on. The kids’ class begins before the adults’ class and lasts on Tuesdays in Pescadero at 5:30 PM for about 30 minutes… Or until Flores decides to pull out a special surprise – in this case, a stack of colorful Disney stickers. Then the dance steps are forgotten.
“It was great. It was fun, too,” said Mairol Hernandez, who is 10. “It’s cool that they are doing it just for kids.”
At 6 p.m., a group of adults started to clear away the tables in the classroom. Flores’ fellow instructors showed up in Halloween costumes like Red Riding Hood and Batgirl.
Flores says Zumba has helped her lose weight and made her a happier person. Kids’ Zumba isn’t about weight loss – it’s just about having fun. When it comes to song selections, she’ll usually cater to their requests. Sometimes there are exceptions, however.
“They’re asking me for one song to move the hips to, because they’ve seen their mothers do it. And I’m like, you guys are too little for those kinds of songs,” she said with a laugh.