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The Daily Tar Heel

Zumba class for kids sees low turnout

Town looks to improve marketing

Photo: Zumba class for kids sees low turnout (Melissa Key)
Ana Elisa Lackey age 6 plays duck duck goose with her sister Sophie Lackey age 9 between songs at the Chapel Hill Community Center's child zumba class.

Late Sunday afternoon, six children ages 6 to 12 bounced on their toes to “Cupid Shuffle,” singing and spinning with outstretched arms to the instructor’s counts of four.

Susana Ramsey, a certified Zumba instructor, smiles as she teaches the children how to skip in place to the beat and introduces children to salsa and meringue.

At ZumbAtomic Fitness for Kids, held every Sunday for four weeks, children go the Chapel Hill Community Center gym to learn about Latin American culture through dance and exercise.

Ten children are registered for the class, which is offered by the town parks and recreation department.

Chapel Hill Community Center Supervisor Lisa Baaske said the program is a success despite the small turnout.

“We think it’s a great number to start out with for a first-time program,” Baaske said. “Last week, we had several walk-ins, and we may have a few more this week.”

The program’s small turnout isn’t uncommon. Several community programs hosted by Chapel Hill have started with a very small number of participants, Baaske said.

But town Assistant Director of Recreation Operation Jim Orr said the town is working on improving marketing for its programs.

“We’re the first ones to tell you that our marketing program lacks, and we are working on that and trying to develop, not just for programs, but for parks and other facilities as well,” Orr said.

One way the department gets the word out is through a quarterly brochure that goes out to all children in Orange County, updated with upcoming events and programs.

Huaiyong Chen, parent of 7-year-old Linyi Chen, said she learned about the ZumbAtomic program from the brochure.

“We knew nothing about it. (Our son) asked us if he could do it, and we wanted to give him the opportunity,” Chen said.

Some programs, like flag football, are run and operated by parks and recreation staff. Programs are paid for through registration fees and sometimes team sponsors.

Other programs, like ZumbAtomic, have a contract between an outside instructor and the town. The two parties agree on a fee and split the revenue 80/20. The majority goes to the instructor and the smaller portion goes to the town to use the facility, Orr said.

The town offers the classes because they want to appeal to all age groups, specifically focusing on youth fitness, Orr said.

“Kids have physical education and may or may not participate in sporting activities, but we are coming up with a wide variety of ways for kids to be active,” he said.

Ramsey leads the class by altering Zumba moves, teaching choreography and playing fitness games such as freeze dance or limbo.

“Especially with the increasing rate of childhood obesity, it’s so important to make fitness fun and not a chore,” she said.

“You make the moves child-friendly, remove the sexiness and the thrusting, hip-shaking, keep that to a natural movement.”

Hannah Kagan, 7, said she enjoys attending the program.

“My favorite part is the dancing and limbo because I like being active,” she said.

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