Community and confidence building in ‘Zumba with Eve’

By Madison Lewis

College is often associated with the pressure to exceed expectations, alongside an accompanying fear of judgment by peers. To alleviate the mental load and to introduce healthy movement into their weekly routine, Rider students can enroll in the weekly program “Zumba with Eve.”

Rider alum Eve Sylvester ’23, who has participated in the dance form since middle school, shares her passion for Zumba with eager attendees every Thursday in the Aerobics Room of the Student Recreation Center.

Immediately after entering the studio, Sylvester turned on the music. She gave a short disclaimer that participants should replicate her moves to their own comfort level and ability, assuring attendees that they can take water breaks at any time.

Sylvester encouraged students to fan the flames of self expression by demonstrating a fast-paced routine in real time, where some returning attendees immediately recognized the moves.

Junior acting major Emily Paruk, who has attended Zumba classes since her freshman year, said, “They do not explain the moves beforehand. You just jump right in … you just go right in and you learn it.” 

Sylvester switched up the material occasionally to ensure students were satisfied. She explained that she uses pre-planned choreography, but half the time, she choreographs the set herself.

Although there are dancers that seem like experts, novice students are seldom discouraged, some even seen laughing good-naturedly at themselves when they misstep.

The attendees departed from the class, sometimes chatting with people they had not known even an hour before.

Paruk said that she cemented the weekly Zumba routine into her schedule by coming to the classes alone, subsequently developing friendships.

Sylvester basked in the environment she created for newcomers, saying, “I just love to see the new faces and that [the newcomers] get to experience my class as something new.”

Fostering such an inclusive environment was not a single-handed task; the returning members add a positive and judgment-free air to the already nurturing atmosphere. 

“I love that I have built that little community that comes to my class … [the returning people] end up knowing the dances and it’s awesome … It is like my little dance group,” said Sylvester. 

When asked about who she recommends her class to, Sylvester changed her positive tone into a more excited declaration.

“Everyone,” the former exercise science major, who graduated from Rider in 2023, exclaimed. “If you are interested in working out and do not know where to start, I think group exercise classes, specifically Zumba, are great places to start … there is that community and it does not even feel like you’re working out.”

Everyone had a different reason to join the world of Zumba, with Sylvester comparing it to a “runner’s high” and Paruk calling it a “little treat” in her day. 

Whatever the reason, or whatever skill level a person enters the room with, Zumba is not an activity to be performed perfectly. There are no expectations in the room full of people looking to escape from the same pressures of college and life in general.

Interested in taking a class? Students can register for “Zumba with Eve” on BroncNation. 

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