Zumba al Fresco on Oak Park’s New Dance Stage

Whether or not it’s the lengthening summer time days or the newest COVID surge that has you itching to train exterior once more, Zumba lessons in Santa Barbara’s iconic Oak Park current the proper alternative to get your groove on al fresco.

After I took the category for the primary time in February, many years of patches had left the wood floor of the almost century-old dance stage uneven and stuffed with gaps. Transferring laterally, turning, and pivoting all felt fairly perilous.

Lauren Macioce, Zumba teacher | Credit score: Ingrid Bostrom

Initially inbuilt 1926 on the event of a go to by Britain’s Prince George (great-great uncle of a sure prince who now resides in Montecito), the dance stage just lately underwent a $100,000 renovation. In response to Justin Van Mullem of Santa Barbara Metropolis Parks & Recreation, the mission concerned ripping up the outdated plywood, shoring up the supporting construction to advertise drainage, having dancers vote on which high coat they thought finest for the floor, after which making use of sufficient TUFFLEX waterproofing to get 30 years of use from the brand new stage.

Now with Zumba provided thrice every week, you don’t have to attend for one of many park’s many ethnic festivals to bop on the brand new ground.

Taught by the charismatic Lauren Macioce, whose full-time gig is as a dance trainer at Adelante Constitution College, the lessons observe the acquainted Zumba format: hand cues from the teacher and many Latin music in addition to different pop on the playlist (Daddy Yankee, Pitbull, Megan Trainor). Macioce strikes across the stage the entire time interacting with the dancers: forming conga strains, partaking in playful pretend-spanking, having us dance in a woefully lopsided circle. For some songs, she additionally invitations one or two common college students to come back to the entrance and dance by her facet.

The category has attracted many veterans of assorted Santa Barbara dance lessons — some in search of a COVID-safe exercise, others simply enthusiastic about an ideal dance class. Zumba newcomers are welcome too. Between Macioce’s fixed motion and the added presence of the backup dancers, it’s usually straightforward to observe the steps. And in case you come frequently, you’ll study the routines.

Most of these attending the category are girls, however there are additionally a number of males; the age of attendees tends towards forties and up. Because it’s outdoor, no one wears a masks, and it’s straightforward to maintain your distance from different dancers if that feels safer for you.

Macioce performs up the sexiness of Zumba strikes — arms skimming the physique, pelvic thrusts, shaking the booty and varied different elements of the anatomy, and I discussed the pretend-spanking, proper? But it surely’s all in enjoyable, and no one has to do something that will make them really feel uncomfortable.

Credit score: Ingrid Bostrom

Macioce additionally manages to sneak some critical exercise strikes into her choreography, like squats, excessive knees, and many lateral strikes for the indirect muscle tissues. Chalk this as much as her coaching in capoeira, the Brazilian martial artwork that she describes as “stunning, stuffed with acrobatics, kicks, and dodges.”

After all, all of those strikes are a lot safer — and simpler on the joints — on the brand new ground. Though one dancer I talked to expressed disappointment that the dance floor is just not merely wooden, she acknowledged that it’s an enormous enchancment over each the outdated stage and the close by concrete floor the category danced on through the months the stage was being renovated.

Dancing within the park makes you’re feeling like half of a bigger artistic group. On one current Monday within the car parking zone close to the dance stage, a trio of ladies draped in veils in vivid shades of violet and emerald rehearsed Center Japanese dance, whereas a few different girls performed their djembe drums. On one other night, a bunch that was headed to Burning Man gathered to follow twirling (unignited) batons and hoops, in preparation for a flaming efficiency on the desert pageant.

“Dancing simply brings me a lot pleasure,” says Macioce. “I like to share that in Zumba!”

4·1·1

Oak Park Zumba lessons are at Mon. and Wed., 5:30 p.m., and Sat., 10:30 a.m. Donation advisable (money or Venmo). Put on sunscreen and a hat.

Credit score: Ingrid Bostrom

Credit score: Ingrid Bostrom

Credit score: Ingrid Bostrom

Credit score: Ingrid Bostrom

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