When you meet Marilena, she gives off a real sense of positive energy. Her work as a Zumba teacher ensures that she is full of rhythm and persuasive in conversation. As Marilena lives in Downtown, we met at the Canada Water Café and she was soon telling me about her origins.
“I was brought up in Athens in Greece where I trained as a ballet dancer and began contemporary jazz dance too. In about 1995, I followed a famous teacher to London after we met when she was visiting Athens to deliver a seminar. I settled in London but moved around a bit finding my home in North London as well as the South East. I was offered a scholarship to the Academy of Dance and Performing Arts and became a soloist with the Vienna Festival Ballet. Moving into the commercial scene, appearing on TV (TOTP, Brit Awards) in films (Phantom of the Opera) and shows (Robbie Williams, Westlife, Andrew Lloyd Webber). Having been involved with the fitness industry throughout, it was a natural progression to start teaching Zumba.”
So what’s Zumba and how did it start?
Zumba started out in the States when Beto Perez and two friends came up with the idea of combining dance and aerobic elements with a range of mostly Latin-inspired rhythms and tunes. It was taken on and promoted by Fitness Quest (now known as Zumba Fitness) which licenses all teachers across the world. Most classes last either 45 mins or an hour and follow one of nine current types of class. Some are designed for older people (Zumba Gold) or to be held in a swimming pool (Aqua Zumba); others use specific pieces of equipment such as toning sticks (Zumba Toning) or a chair (Zumba Sentao). Marilena offers a range of different classes including Zumba, Zumba Step, Zumba Sentao and Zumba Toning.
Everyone says how much fun Zumba really is and how it feels like exercise in disguise!
Where can we get a look at Zumba with you then?
“The best way is to come along to a class and try it for yourself. You work at your own level but with practice you will both get better at the moves and feel terrific doing so. Everyone is welcome to come along and as we introduce dances from around the world, there is plenty of variety in the classes. I’ve led demonstrations with my Zumba Fever Crew (some of my regular students) at the Bermondsey Carnival in the last couple of years, so you might have seen me there. Loads of people also take a look at my YouTube videos to get an idea what the classes are like.”
And the classes?
“ I teach regular open Zumba classes three evenings a week at Bacons College in Rotherhithe and one evening a week at Harris Academy in Bermondsey. They started in 2011 with only 20 people at the first and I’ve always used the national Zumba.com website to promote the classes. I offer classes in gyms in both Canary Wharf and Central London too but my open classes are focused here in SE16. My open classes can be booked when you turn up or better still you can do so through my website or on my Facebook page.”
I love it round here. It’s so central yet feels like the countryside.
“Everyone says how much fun Zumba really is and how it feels like exercise in disguise! The music and activity go together so well, you will find yourself having loads of fun, toning your muscles and developing greater balance and coordination – all for a regular hour (or two) a week! Why not give it a go?”
A range of different classes are held at Bacon’s College Sports Centre, Timber Pond Road SE16 6AT (Monday, Tuesday and Thursday) and Harris Academy Bermondsey, 55 Southwark Park Road SE16 3TZ (Wednesday).