You are now a Zumba® instructor, fresh out of your B1 training and ready to face the world. You found someone willing to give you a break (yay!) and a location for your first Zumba® class. The day of your first class is set. “Time to make a playlist,” you tell yourself, “…but where do I start?”
Consult your B1 training manual
It’s your ultimate weapon against “first class nerves.” Let it guide you. Follow the sample breakdown on page 28 of your manual. For an example of a class structure, I had this written down in my notes:
1. Warm-up song – Step Touch
2. Warm-up song – Toning
3. Warm-up song – Cardio
14. Cool Down
This is just a sample to get you started. Once you get a few classes under your belt, you can change up the rhythm order to fit your preferences. Feel free to add in other rhythms such as belly dance, calypso, samba, and more as you become familiar with them.
Choosing your music
Zumba® Fitness tells us to use a 70/30 ratio of the rhythms in class – 70% Latin and international, 30% your choice (page 15 of your manual). If you want to include Top 40 radio hits in your playlist, the warm-up and cool down sections are great places to use them.
A typical hour-long class contains 14–15 songs (may be more or less depending on song lengths). Four or five songs would make up the “your choice” portion of the playlist.
One way to set up your playlist is to use three “your choice” songs for each phase of the warm-up and one “your choice” song for cool down. The middle of your playlist could then be filled with Latin and international songs.
I’ve also been to master classes where the instructor used one long remixed song to cover their entire warm-up section (step touch, toning, cardio).
There’s no hard rule on this. You’re free to put your 30% choices anywhere you want. The method I described above comes from my own experience in planning our class playlist. You may want to use a spicy Latin number for warm-up or a Spanish ballad for cool down while your 30% choices hang in the middle. That’s completely fine.
Sources for music include:
• the Billboard music charts
• internet radio stations like iheartradio or Lomaximo Productions
• search YouTube for different rhythms – i.e. “fitness routine cumbia”
• suggestions on the ZIN™ forum
• playlists posted at Zumba® instructors’ websites
Find a fun, energetic song that YOU like to kick off the class. What’s important is that you use easy, continuous moves: step-touch, grapevines, marching in place, knee lifts, etc.
A good warm-up routine does exactly that – warm up your body’s muscles. You’re slowly preparing your students to get into more intense moves later on. Your first song gets the party started and gives your students a sense of accomplishment. They’ll think “I can do this” and be encouraged to keep going.
Warm-up songs #2 and #3 bring in more fitness components – toning and cardio. Challenge them with some squats or lunges. Raise their heart rates with jumping jacks or running in place. But, again, use music that makes you and your students want to move.
The warm-up section is also a good place to introduce any tricky steps that may show up later in the class. You can break down the step at a slower pace and let your students practice. Then, when the time comes to do the step in real time, they’ll have a better idea of what to do.
Once you’ve picked the songs for your playlist, write (or type) them in a list. Put them in the order they will play in class. Identify the main rhythm for each song. This will allow you to see if you have a good mix of the four basic rhythms.
Now look at the pace of each song. I don’t mean the speed of the song itself necessarily, but the kind of moves you do in the song. Do you have a group of higher-intensity routines back-to-back? If so, your class may tire too quickly.
Keep your playlist balanced by alternating between higher-intensity and lower-intensity songs. This type of “intermittent training” is one of the key things that makes the Zumba® Fitness program so successful.
Once you have your playlist set, practice your routines in order – as if you were teaching it in class. You’ll find out quickly if the pacing works. :)
Finding Zumba routines
Zumba instructors get class routines from many different sources. Mix and match any of the suggestions below to get your first playlist going:
• Sign up for a ZIN™ membership and use the materials.
Every other month, Zumba® Fitness delivers a CD/DVD set to ZIN™ members. You can use a ZIN™ routine in its entirety or modify it to fit your class’s skill level. Simplify the moves. Change up the arms. Take out one move and replace it with another. Play around with a ZIN™ routine until it feels right to you.
• Use what you know.
Don’t have time to learn an entire set of new songs? Use the songs and routines from the Zumba® classes you attended as a student. Talk to your favorite Zumba® instructor(s). Tell them about your upcoming class, share your fears, ask questions, get advice. Ask them if you can use their routines in your own class. Some established instructors love to help new instructors by acting as mentors. Take advantage of their expertise.
• Create new choreography using the Zumba® formula.
Maybe the ZIN™ routines don’t inspire you. Or perhaps there’s a song on the radio that makes you want to bust a move every time. Take a chance and create routines on your own. Pick songs that excite you! Use the mood of the music to bring out your passion, and share that passion with your students. Draw from the basic rhythm steps you learned in B1. Remember the Zumba® formula (page 12 of your manual). It’s been proven to work. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Use it!
• Watch routines posted on YouTube or Facebook.
Sometimes, the perfect routine meets the perfect song. And someone else did it. Borrow the routine – it’s okay, we won’t tell. :) Or maybe you only like most of a YouTube routine. Fill in your own step or piece together bits of several routines.
• Find other sources for inspiration – movies, television, dance websites.
I rented “Step It Up 3″ the other day for this very reason. Granted, the plot line and acting weren’t brilliant or all that believable, but the dance numbers were FANTASTIC. I may not be a dancing genius, but I can probably find a new move or two from the movie to enhance my Zumba® routines. Watch and absorb all you can. You never know what can happen. You may find inspiration from a National Geographic documentary on African tribes or a 1920′s silent film.
3 tips for teaching your first Zumba® class
1. Keep your steps simple so they are easy to follow.
Simple does not mean boring. The simplest steps can be fun if you give them some flavor. Have you ever watched Tanya Beardsley lead a class? She seems to do this effortlessly. She’ll smile, catch a student’s eyes and give ‘em a wink, engage a student one-on-one, add a sassy shimmy. You can do the same thing in your own class.
Simple choreography is also easier to remember. You have to juggle an hour’s worth of routines in your head…why not give yourself a break?
2. Confidence is key.
It all comes down to knowing your music, moves, and cues. Practice, practice, practice. New students come to your class asking themselves a million little questions: “Will I catch on?” “Will they laugh at me?” “Can I even do this?” They can get past their own insecurities if they have a good time and feel like they are in the hands of a strong leader. When you are confident in your moves, it shows. But if first class jitters get the best of you…
3. Fake it till you make it.
We all have bad days. We mess up. It’s a natural part of being human. Pick a default step to use for times when you blank out on choreography – the Beto shuffle or maybe a booty shake. Use it until a cue in the music gets you back on track. The key to pulling this off is to do it with purpose. Act like it’s the right move, and no one will ever know differently. :)
The journey beyond
Your B1 workshop stresses four basic rhythms, but you are not limited by them. Zumba® Fitness offers Latin and international sounds.
Different cultures and rhythms abound – tango, flamenco, calypso, belly dance, bhangra, bachata, cha-cha-cha, samba. Variety is the spice of life; let your playlist reflect that.
It’s easy to fall into the habit of letting one rhythm dominate your class. We each have a certain comfort zone; when we venture outside of it, we often feel awkward. Don’t deprive your students of the full Zumba® experience.
If a certain style of dance gives you trouble, throw it into your playlist. Take it slow, and use the opportunity to learn with your class. Make it a bonding experience that helps you grow closer to your students.
Good luck on building your first class playlist! If you have any questions about the material covered (or not covered) here, shoot me an email.