Instructor Tanya Nuchols works her obliques and arms at Joy of Motion in Bethesda.
Take a Latin dance party and add a chair, and you’ve got the recipe for Zumba Sentao, the latest twist on the mega-popular aerobics workout.
You’ve also got a chance to add toning to the cardio workout, says Kearsha Saxon, a Zumba Jammer (aka master trainer), who gave a preview of the class at Crunch’s Chevy Chase location last week, enthusiastically bopping through choreography peppered with squats, lunges and leg lifts.
Sentao — a riff on the Spanish word “sentar,” meaning “to sit” — was developed recently by Zumba creator Beto Perez. The story, Saxon says, is that Perez was speaking at a conference and wanted his audience to dance with him. Their chairs were getting in the way, so he decided to make them props rather than obstacles, and when he realized how the inanimate objects assisted in muscle toning, Zumba Sentao was born.
Not many instructors are certified in the program yet, which is why you won’t find the class permanently on the schedule at Crunch. But Joy of Motion’s Tanya Nuchols just started offering Sentao at the Bethesda studio at 10:30 a.m. every Tuesday.
“It’s an intense workout, but it’s modifiable like Zumba,” said Nuchols, who fielded questions before the first class. (Is it similar to exotic chair dancing? “No! It might be a little sexy — there’s some booty popping. But it’s clean, not stripper Zumba.”)
The only way to really understand it is to do it, so Nuchols launched into action, warming up the students and getting them comfortable interacting with their chairs. The students moved in a box around their chairs to get used to where they’d be traveling with Nuchols’ choreography.
“You have to be conscious of the chair the whole time,” she said.
Then the pace picked up, and Nuchols showed off how versatile a single piece of furniture can be. Standing next to it, you can lift a foot and place it on the seat. Behind it, you can crescent kick over the back. Sitting in it, you can sweep your knees out to the sides and back.
And holding on to it, you can feel the burn. Sitting, with their hands on the edges of their seats, students scooted forward until their butts were hanging in the air. From there, they were ready for dips.
That’s also the starting position for one of Nuchols’ favorite moves: an oblique twisting walk. Crossing one leg over the other, constantly alternating sides while supporting herself with her arms, targets the core and arms. But the move makes her feel like she’s performing in a cabaret, notes Nuchols, whose favorite aspect of Sentao is that it allows her to sneak in muscle strengthening.
Same goes for 47-year-old Monica Vallada, who took Nuchols’ class and said that push-ups and squats masked behind salsa and cumbia are exactly what she needs: “I do weights and hate every minute of it. But this goes by fast.”
At Saxon’s Crunch class, the calisthenics-heavy choreography got mixed reviews. Lydia Stevens, 66, said she’d be back for sure — she expects she’ll see better results than with regular Zumba alone. But Mariela Yohe, 46, admitted she would rather just dance.
Maybe chairs aren’t everyone’s ideal dance partners. But no one can object to having them around — after this class, you deserve to take a seat.
Shaking Things Up: Tanya Nuchols (Zumbawithtanya.com) got hooked on Zumba in 2006. The dance workout helped her shimmy off 60 pounds, and she’s sure Zumba can do the same for other folks looking to lose weight — but it might take a few different approaches. That’s why she’s also certified in Zumba Gold (for seniors), Zumbatomic (for kids) and Zumba Toning (which uses maraca-like sticks).