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She’s got the Zumba moves

Sherie Holder-Olutayo

She’s got the Zumba moves

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FOR MAJ-BRITT WAAGENES [pronounced Vogueness] coming to Barbados over 20 years ago has been a life-changing experience.
What initially began as a vacation with her mother, ended up in a long love affair with the island and her carving out her own unique niche.
“I met my husband, got married for ten years, got divorced,” she said.
While marriage didn’t work out, her love of the island lasted, along with her passion for dance which she says she had since she was a little girl.
While her real name is Maj-britt, the moniker “Salsita” has stuck, and has become the name most people know her by.
“I got the name when I was studying dance in Cuba for six months because nobody could get my name right,” she said. “They’d call me Margaret or other names, so they started calling me Salsita. When I came back to Barbados, I started teaching salsa so I just kept it.”
Salsita’s penchant for Latin dance has been transferred to Zumba, the Latin-inspired dance fitness programme that has spread all over the world.
“Zumba instructors all over the world are working together,” Salsita said. “That’s what I love about it. It’s such a strong forum, we share choreography and ideas.”
Though Salsita has become the face of Zumba in Barbados, she is trying to push other people who work with her into the forefront.
“I’ve been teaching this for 12 years and I would like to take a step back,” she said.
For now, however, that doesn’t seem possible because the popularity of Zumba is really growing and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.
“I think Zumba has caught on because it’s such a fun way of exercising,” she adds. “Personally I’m a dancer but I was never into fitness before. I could never get into the gym thing. Now I love working out. I love my Zumba. Because I’m seeing the changes in my body, I’m becoming health conscious and thinking maybe I can do a bit of weights to help tone up.
“Most people like to dance. In Denmark where I’m from, they have more Zumba instructors than anywhere else in the world. Every class is so full. This is not a fad, because Zumba just had its ten-year anniversary recently.”
If the number of Barbadian women who have caught on to the fitness craze is any indication, Zumba will be around for a while.
But it’s the Latin inspiration behind Zumba that Salsita loves. She said that many of the women in her salsa classes often wanted a way to use salsa in their daily exercise routine.
“So I called a friend of mine and told her I was looking for a way to combine salsa and soca and she said to me ‘Oh you mean Zumba’,” Salsita revealed. “She sent me the link and I was like this is it. What I like about it is that you have a 50-minute to an hour class, and it combines salsa, merengue, soca, belly dance, African, pop and a host of other rhythms; so it entices you when you follow the moves so you’re not realizing how much you’re exercising.”
Salsita says that as an instructor it is fulfilling to see how people have taken to Zumba.
“Zumba is really good cardio,” Salsita said touting its health benefits. “We also have Zumba for children and Zumba gold for people over 55. I was told that Barbados was No. 12 on the list of most obese people in the world. So I’m really happy to be helping to get people out of their chairs.”
That sense of fulfilment is a plus for her because dance is something that she has always wanted to do.
“Growing up, I used to be in the corner of my big brother’s parties copying all the teenagers on the dance floor. Then I started playing in this samba band in Copenhagen when I was 12. By 15 I was leading a group of 30 musicians in street samba,” she said.
Looking back on the course of her life, it seems as though Salsita was destined to be doing what she’s doing.
“Recently I was thinking that children grow up saying I want to become a nurse or fireman, but I never really had that,” Salsita revealed. “I always wanted to dance and share it with people. It took me coming to the other side of the world, and not dancing for ten years. Being a white chick telling black people to dance was scary. But the experience in Cuba gave me that confidence. I knew I couldn’t wuk-up but I could teach people to salsa. So I guess my childhood dream came true without me consciously going towards it.”