Graduate Student finds a passion through ZUMBA

Esdras Carbajal, a graduate student studying crop science, remembers the first time he taught a ZUMBA® class. He remembers the feeling of forgetting the choreography of the songs.

“Keep your feet moving,” he thought to himself. At that moment, the adrenaline took over from the participants jumping and shouting words of encouragement. The excitement and energy made the class fly by.

What started in 2012 by attending a class on a whim, has turned into a passion. Esdras is one of the most adored ZUMBA® instructors currently at University Recreation.

In his native country of Honduras, Esdras never considered himself to be a dancer. Although he had a background in theater, dancing was something that never came naturally.

“I was very ashamed to go into the class,” Esdras admitted. Walking into a class full of people can be intimidating, so he did what felt natural—set up in the back of the class. Without a background in dancing or rhythm, he found the class to be hard.

After a slight chuckle, Esdras says “I couldn’t move, but I really liked the rhythm.” Dancing alone in front of a mirror is different being around a room full of people.

From there, he was hooked. After the class had ended, he searched the group fitness schedule online to find all the dance classes, eventually taking three different dance classes every Monday. From listening to songs typically found in ZUMBA® classes or dancing in front of the mirror, the rhythm came naturally.

Next came a comfort of being in class. Slowly, he moved from the back corner to the middle and then finally to the front. That is when all fear left, just dancing. As time progressed, instructors would look for him and would choose him as a dance partner.

Through the urging of two group fitness instructors, Esdras applied for the ACE® group fitness instructor training course in the fall of 2015. At first, it was more challenging than expected. When he passed the course, he was given his instructor shirt. “I almost cried that day. I wanted to use it.”

After completing the course, he began shadowing with other instructors in the spring 2016 semester and eventually teaching his first class in the summer of 2016.

It was a moment he would not forget.

With the push of a button, “She Doesn’t Mind” by Sean Paul begins to play. Esdras practiced his routine and choreography. There was a calming sense of confidence. His community was there and those who have joined him before. All he could do was laugh.

Zumba® to him is an international party. With English as his second language, he knows the feeling of being in an unfamiliar place and creates a familiarity through music. Keeping this in mind, he curates playlists from many countries. Samba, punta, soca and African dance styles are all incorporated.

Participants in his class share the same sentiment. Sarah, a sophomore in physical science, decided to make a change and add activity into her life. She has attended a ZUMBA® class every Monday and has been inspired to try new formats such as yoga. “It’s the most fun way for me to work out because it makes me feel motivated with all the people around me and I think dancing is the best form of workout. I actually want to do it.”

Esdras’s advice for students is simple:

“It doesn’t matter if you don’t follow what I’m doing, just follow your heart.”