Getting kids on their feet, excited and moving to the beat of ... Zumba Day!







Elena Enriquez huddles with a group of students to select the morning's play list from her iPad.

Enriquez explains after the morning workout that she typically picks the songs Blue Ridge Elementary students dance to on these special mornings. But with the school year winding down, she is letting some of the older students pick their top hits.

The school's cafeteria is filled with students and staff when Maroon 5's "Moves Like Jagger" comes on. From her perch on a small platform, Enriquez leads the students through jumping and clapping, turning and stepping to the rhythms of the song for their morning workout.

Thanks to Enriquez, Wednesday mornings at Blue Ridge are Zumba mornings. Zumba is an exercise routine that combines Latin-inspired dancing moves with aerobic exercise, set to popular music. Zumba was started by Colombian dancer and choreographer Alberto "Beto" Perez in the 1990s, according to information found online.

Enriquez is a local Zumba instructor who leads Zumba classes at the Walla Walla YMCA.

Enriquez said she began volunteering one morning each week at Blue Ridge about a year and a half ago. Since then, she has become popular among the young students.

"I'm not Elena to them," she said. "When they see me it's, ‘Zumba! Hi, Zumba!"

Blue Ridge students gather in their gymnasium each morning before school starts for a round of morning exercises. The moves include stretching and movement to get them ready for the day. Wednesday, however, bring music and dancing.

Enriquez gets the students to step their feet from side to side, spin in circles, hop up and down and wave their arms in the air and clap to the rhythms. She counts out the beats to remind them when to step, when to turn, when to raise their arms.

The morning group grows as students who have finished their breakfast join the mass dance, along with teachers and staff.

Maroon 5 is followed by Tribal Monterrey's "Intentalo," and then "Taboo" by Don Omar. After four songs, Enriquez signals to the students who helped her with the playlist to pick one more song. The boys put on "La Peinada" by Chuy Lizarraga, a Mexican regional song familiar to the many Latino students who attend Blue Ridge.

The fast-paced song got the students bouncing and chanting "Hey! Hey! Hey!" with the song.

"Eso muchachos!" Enriquez called out to the boys who picked the song, as they started dancing along before headong to class. Enriquez steps off the podium with sweat dripping from her face.

"She is phenomenal," Blue Ridge Principal Kim Doepker wrote in an e-mail about Enriquez. "We love Zumba Day!"


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