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Senior center spices up day with 'zumba'

On Tuesday, the zumba class at the Frank Bailey Senior Center, in Riverdale, was in full swing, filled with positive energy, laughter and the voices of dancers making a high-pitched sound called a zaghareet.

"The zaghareet is a middle eastern call, which symbolizes celebration and happiness," explained Zumba Instructor Crystal Cornejo, 43 , who began teaching the class in August. It is offered to members of the center on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

"I found out about the Frank Bailey Senior Center from one of my belly-dancing students, in Peachtree City," Cornejo said. When the members of the center discovered that she was a dance instructor, they asked her to come and teach zumba classes.

Cornejo said she has a strong background in dance. "I am a professional belly dancer," she said. According to Cornejo, zumba is a combination of dance and fitness. She added that it is about 70 percent Latin, and the rest is other types of dances, such as hip hop, African, Indian, and belly dancing. "It is exercise in disguise," she added.

The class is held from 1 p.m., until 2 p.m., for a fee of $35 for five weeks, according to the center's activity schedule. The senior center is located at 6213 Riverdale Road.

Lynda Ray, 63, of Jonesboro, said she joined the class because she needed the exercise. "I come here twice a week — Tuesday and Thursday. "The class is about to end, and everyone is signing up for the next session," Ray said.

Linda Freeman, 60, of Riverdale, said she joined for the "miracle" weight loss. "I can't do it [zumba], but it's a lot of fun," she added.

Fayetteville resident, Geri Johnson, 62, added that she and Freeman are going on a cruise, and have been walking three miles in the morning and coming to dance class. "We are going to get fine," she said.

Participants say the class is not only great exercise, but also a source of relaxation –– and a stress reliever.

Clayton County Board of Education Member Jessie Goree, 55, of Riverdale, said she uses zumba to relieve stress. Goree saw a national zumba dance team perform at an Atlanta Dream women's professional basketball game, and decided that she wanted to take zumba classes.

The participants, at the center on Tuesday, also took part in salsa, merengue, belly dancing, and a little hip hop dancing as well. "We do a little bit of everything ... every genre, even Indian," Cornejo said.

The dancers are able to learn, and do more and more as each week goes by, explained Cornejo. "I am amazed at how much they are picking up on dance moves," she added.

Riverdale resident, Marilyn McCrary, 67, takes line-dancing classes and zumba classes, back-to-back, on the same day. "I'm crazy," she said, with laughter, when asked why she decided to take both classes.

In the future, Cornejo said, the center will have zumba aquatic classes, which is zumba dancing in the swimming pool.

"I always tell them [participants] that when I grow up, I want to be just like them," Cornejo said. She added that members of the Frank Bailey Senior Center are so youthful, so much fun, and such sweet people.

For more information about activities at the Frank Bailey Senior Center, call (678) 479-5505.