Jackie Waters Talks Dance & Fitness

By Melissa Bykofsky

Her Long Island studio now offers dance-inspired fitness classes in addition to the traditional jazz, hip-hop and ballet.

Jackie Waters, center, leaps across the stage during a dance recital. Provided by Bodies in Motion Dance Studio.

Jackie Waters enjoys teaching all forms of traditional dance. She manages Bodies in Motion Dance Studio in West Hempstead where she teaches ballet, tap, jazz, kick line and hip-hop. Just last year, she spiced up the studio’s schedule with  Zumba, a dance-inspired fitness routine.

The staff at Bodies in Motion decided to offer Zumba classes as a way to draw in new customers because the workout style continued to grow in popularity. Today around 20 people attend the hour-long Zumba classes twice a week. Waters, 23, says she expects the class size to grow once the holidays end and people look to loose the turkey weight.

Waters, who began dancing at 5 years old, spends at least six hours in the studio each day teaching chassés and pirouettes. Even though dancing exhausts her energy and often leaves her muscles aching, she still attends Zumba classes to get in a workout. For Waters, dance is an art and Zumba is a workout.

COLLIDE interviewed Waters to break down the differences between traditional dance and Zumba, and find out how the two styles come together.


COLLIDE: What fitness benefits are there to dancing?

Jackie Waters: At the beginning of every class we do a warm up with the girls. We stretch all their muscles and teach them about their body placement and what is good for their posture. If they are stretching and their legs are turned the wrong way we teach them the correct way to do it so they don’t hurt themselves. We teach them how to tighten their muscle as they dance so they build muscle. Dancing for however amount of time is a workout. It’s a lot of cardio. For me it’s worse because when I am dancing with the kids I am talking to them so they can get a visual and verbal description of the moves. For me it’s a workout and I do it back to back all day.

C: Other than dancing, did you participate in fitness activities growing up?

JW: I never did sports in school. I just danced every day.

C: How has dance changed your body?

JW: My muscles are definitely stronger in my stomach and legs and it helps to keep me in shape and fit. If I didn’t dance this much I’d probably be overweight with the amount of food that I eat.

C: How is dancing in a Zumba class different than dancing for a performance?

JW: Zumba is dancing but it is not technical dance moves, it is movements. You are still moving and dancing the whole time but when you are in a dance class for a performance you are doing a technical dance to music. The steps in Zumba are dance, but it is more Latin-style and salsa. When you are learning for ballet, jazz, tap and hip-hop you learn the technical moves that are not used in Zumba. It’s still dancing, but it is more of a workout, it is not technical.

C: Do you ever see the two styles coming together?

JW:  There is a chasse [a ballet move] in some Zumba routines and there are very basic jazz steps in Zumba. Sometimes you can do a different style of Zumba, some classes are more hip-hop based. You can also take steps from technical dance and use them in Zumba and also take steps from Zumba routines and put them in a dance routine. It will still be a work out and still be artistic.

C: Is dance a form of art or a form of exercise? 

JW: I see it as a form of art because even though you are exercising when you are dancing you have to put your own passion in it and your own creativity in it. When I am in dance class I feel like we are exercising in the beginning when I warm up, but when I am dancing I don’t think of the fitness aspect. But when you are done you feel like you just worked out because that is how much effort and energy you put in it.

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