2 to Tango, Many to Zumba
Patrizio Merlo wasted no time getting down to the workout. He pumped up the music, started busting out dance moves, and in less than a second the 30 women at ZK Group Fitness were following along.
What looked like a party at the Pitman fitness studio was actually a private Zumba session with the Argentine “Tango King.” ZK’s owner Kathy Streck said the “king” is known worldwide.
Although Zumba isn’t a rigid workout exercisers are known to yell, sing and freestyle a bit Merlo did have some ground rules for participating in his version of the Latin dance-inspired group exercise.
“Break a sweat and have fun,” he said, one of the few things, besides a “woo!” here and there, throughout the hour-long sweat session.
Merlo isn’t the creator of Zumba, but he is one of the first instructors to incorporate elements of the Tango into the high-energy routines. That, of course, is where he gets his nickname.
The dance fitness program was created in Colombia in the 1990s. Streck said she’s among the first fitness instructors to bring it to the East Coast.
Streck, who has a background in fitness, learned to teach Zumba classes in California four years ago. She brought it back to Pitman two years ago.
“It’s a Latin-inspired dance work out and you don’t even realize you’re exercising,” Streck said. “So you’re burning 600 to 1,000 calories an hour.”
Merlo, who met Streck at a Zumba convention three years ago, lost 100 pounds in 18 months on the Zumba workout.
The now-Orlando-based Argentina native made Pitman a pit stop during a Philadelphia, New York and New Jersey Zumba tour where he typically teaches classes of about 100 people.
“Having a guy here brings a new perspective to it because the majority of our clients are female,” said Streck, who is celebrating the one-year anniversary of her studio this month.
The Broadway studio offers one to two Zumba classes every day, and every class is packed, Streck said.
For Pitman native Karen Mohrman, it’s the beat-driven tunes and the sexy dance moves that keep her coming back.
“The music is the best thing, and the moves,” said Mohrman, 45, of Berlin. “And everyone (here) is supportive of one another.”
The music is also what keeps Merlo and Streck teaching the class, sometimes two or more a day.
“I think I’m so blessed with this, and it shows that we’re happy doing what we’re doing,” Merlo said before breaking a sweat of his own on the lit stage in the studio. “We have a lot of fun teaching.”