Zumba co-founder and CEO Alberto Perlman spoke with The Miami Herald about the evolution of the dance-fitness craze 20 years later, how it survived the pandemic, and what the next 20 years might look like. Check out an excerpt below and find the full interview here.
How has Zumba changed over the past two decades?
The original Zumba class hasn’t changed that much, but what changes is the type of music we use. When we came on the scene, reggaeton did not exist, and as soon as we started hearing these sounds coming out of Puerto Rico, we said, ‘These are perfect for Zumba.’ We were the first ones to bring reggaeton into the mainstream. As music evolves, Zumba evolves — you’re dancing to popular music, and that always keeps you coming back.
How does Zumba compete with new exercise trends on the scene?
Most fitness programs usually live in the space of, ‘We’re better from a calorie-burn perspective, or from a fitness perspective.’ But if you only live in that physical space, someone is going to come along and will build a better mousetrap. Think about the Thighmaster in the ‘90s, or 8 Minute Abs — someone is going to come up with seven-minute abs.
Zumba is similar to yoga in that there is emotion — in yoga you think of zen or flow state. In Zumba we call it F.E.J.: freeing electrifying joy. You get lost in the music, you’re having so much fun that all other thoughts are gone, you’re just there, present in the moment.
And the other piece is the community. In yoga it’s similar as well — there’s a pilgrimage to India, or some sort of yoga shrine. In Zumba, there’s a convention every year, and it’s a magical place. Physical plus emotional plus community is why Zumba is a forever brand.
What is the significance of Miami to the Zumba story?
It’s where we live. It could have only been born here because of the cultural aspect of Miami, the openness to Latin music, Latin influence — Miami is capital of Latin America. Beto’s dream growing up in Cali was to go to Miami. Zumba started when my cousins, my mom, everyone I knew was taking Beto’s class here in Aventura — it wasn’t even called Zumba then, he called it “rhumba-cise.” At that moment something sparked the idea: What if we take this to the world, put it on a VHS tape — this was 2001 — and teach Zumba at home via VHS. What we realized is that the community and class was the true Zumba experience, so we started training instructors, who would come from all over the country and go to Miami and train in Zumba. But Miami is still the root and culture of Zumba. Zumba is Miami.
What will the next 20 years of Zumba look like?
We’re constantly enhancing our technologies to make our instructors more successful. We believe people don’t need another screen in their life. We want them to get together in person, and we don’t want humanity to lose that. Mental health has also come up as a big topic in how Zumba helps — we want to create more moments to help people through any mental health issues.
We’ve also created a new brand, STRONG Nation. It’s a high-intensity training program — but we created a program where the music is scored to the workout. So we create these routines, then create music that completely matches the routines. We want to have an epic feeling, really feeling like a bad-ass. So you’re going to see more STRONG Nation in the years to come.
We also created the Zumba music lab. It’s a production house where we create our own music. We’re working with some of the best writers and producers in the world, and now record labels are coming and saying they want to launch our songs.
This article was originally published in The Miami Herald by Rob Wile and can be found here.