Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Creating Choreography for Your Zumba™Classes: Tips and Tricks for Both New and Veteran Instructors

Written by: Zumba™ Fitness Instructor Claudia Buckler

Teaching Zumba™ sounds very exciting and fun!  (And from experience I can say that it is). However, what most people don't realize is that it is a lot of work! And when I say a lot, I mean a lot! When you take into consideration training, learning choreography, creating your own choreography, preparing set lists for classes, actually teaching and doing it all over again for your next class, it can become a little overwhelming. 

For some instructors choreographing a song can be very easy, but sometimes for new instructors it can be more difficult and complicated.  Zumba™ is much different than other fitness categories.  Zumba is rooted in the music itself. As instructors, we have the choice to follow choreography Zumba Home Office provides us, or we have liberty to create our own. If instructors create their own, they typically don’t follow one unique format.  They create their own routines and playlists with eclectic music and rhythms that we hope you like.  It really gives us as instructors many advantages in that if something isn’t working, we can change it.  If you forgot one step while you are teaching (this never happens, right?!), it can be easily covered up (just keep moving and smile).  One of the advantages of Zumba is you get to be creative and build a class based on your own strengths.  Given that, here are some of my recommendations when you are creating your own choreography. 

You will enjoy your class more, and your students will definitely enjoy your class more if you choose songs you like!  Your joy will come shining through. Select the rhythms you would like to include in your playlist.  Once you know the rhythms you can select specific songs that highlight those types of beats.  There are so many great songs to choose from that this is usually the easiest part of choreography (or maybe it’s the hardest since there are SO many!). Keep in mind the overall structure of a class when you are selecting your songs.  Remember that we need to include the warm-up, cool-down, and stretch segments during the class.  You will elevate heart rate during the class to give the students a great workout.  This means you will need a variety of music tempos.

Teaching Zumba does not require a strong knowledge of music.  However, it is important that you know about rhythms.  You must know how to find the downbeat and phrases within the music.  Sometimes this comes naturally, but for some instructors it is something you need to learn.  There are a lot of good Zumba™ resources out there that help explain Salsa, Merengue, Cumbia, and other rhythms.  Study and learn these styles, then match songs that fit the genre. Once you understand the different rhythms and styles, it is important you actually do the associated steps.  Your class will learn the choreography with more ease if you stay within the styles.  In other words, if you are preparing a salsa song, fill it with salsa steps.  You can add in some classic Zumba moves, or create your own, but make sure the integrity of the song remains.

As soon as your pick your songs and corresponding rhythms, practice, practice, practice!  You have to know your music perfectly, inside and out.  This is critical so you can do the transitions naturally and queue the next steps in perfect rhythm.  I like to listen to my music over and over until I know the song perfectly.  This gives me confidence in front of the room.  The students can feel that, and they appreciate the time and energy I have put into my preparation.  Everyone makes mistakes, but you should not make mistakes because you didn’t prepare the songs well enough.

Don’t try to decorate or complicate every single beat of the music.  Try to make the choreography simple and enjoyable for the students.  This simplicity gives them the chance to learn the steps and just dance along.  Remember – this is not about you.  This is not a performance.  You don’t have to be a superstar on the stage.  You simply need people to feel comfortable with the moves and then they will enjoy the music. Always consider the technical capabilities of your class.  Sometimes a move can be very easy for you but not for them.  Try to think about the students when you are putting together your choreography.  Will they be able to do a move?  Are the moves too feminine?  You want to present choreography that are appropriate for both men and women.  Also, resist the temptation to change your playlist too often.  People like repetition – it allows them to be free and have more fun with their Zumba class.

As a new instructor, we like to go to different classes with different instructors to try to learn new styles and techniques.  But please take note – “learning” is totally different than “copying”.  It is ok to get tips from an instructor (or Zumba™ DVD), but everyone has to develop their own personalityThis is what Zumba is about – variety!  Some instructors have the craziness, sometimes called the “Z-factor”, while some other instructors are a little more reserved.  Every approach is OK, but just be yourself.  Do not try to be fake.  People will notice.

Try to be early for your scheduled class.  This will give you some time to get settled in and make sure everything is ready for your students.  Have your playlist ready, and bring an extra device just in case the one you have doesn’t work.  Learn how to use the equipment in the studio.  It sounds simple but every gym is different, so if you don’t know how to use the stereo, for instance, ask the prior instructor to show you.  Then you can relax and be ready to welcome your students.  You’d be surprised how important it is for the students to see you there ready to go.  It shows you care about the class as much as they do!

This might be the most important aspect of being an effective Zumba instructor.  Always teach your class with maximum energy!  Remember, the students are always trying to copy you, so if your energy is low they will feel it and it will drag them down.  Try your best to give 200% energy when you are teaching!  Not all the students will be able to match you, but all will appreciate your efforts.  The only way you can bring that energy to the class is to feel prepared, and I hope the tips I’ve shared with you will be helpful in that area!

The Zumba community affords you many educational opportunities.  Start participating in jam sessions.  Get new certifications (like Zumba Gold, Strong by Zumbaetc.).  Attend the yearly convention in Orlando – it is a LOT of fun!!  All of these avenues will expand your teaching abilities and help you create fun, interesting, and exciting choreography!

I hope these tips were helpful. 
Good luck!!

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