Eight years ago three fitness instructors from Buffalo, Jen Wright, Olivia Ebsary, and Meghan Schimmelpenninck van der Oye, met at Gold's Gym, now Catalyst Fitness on Werhle and Union in Williamsville, where they all worked together. Wanting to share their love for Zumba, an interval-based class where participants dance to a variety of international rhythms such as Cumbia, Salsa, and Bachata, Jen pitched the idea of starting an outdoor Zumba class to Buffalo Waterfront. From there, it was game on.

Video courtesy of Nicholas Picholas (@NICKinBUFFALO)

During the program's most active days, Zumba at Canalside, sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield, sees between 200 and 250 participants, Schimmelpenninck said. 

Schimmelpenninck has been a fitness instructor for over 25 years. She began teaching a Step aerobics and total body sculpting class at her local YMCA and is now certified in Zumba, Zumba Toning, Pilates, Spinning, Will Power and Grace, Piloxing, and certified personal training. 

She took her first Zumba class 10 years ago and fell in love with the format.

"Zumba is a unique format.  Every class, every instructor's style, every playlist is different," she said.

Participants dance to a live DJ, Schimmelpenninck's husband, Nicholas Picholas of KISS 98.5, who mixes the beats for each jam and adds variety to each class. 

Schimmelpenninck doesn't have a background in dance, but to join the dance party, you don't have to. Her moves and teaching style incorporate beneficial techniques and athleticism that are easy to follow as steps are repeated throughout the class. 

"Anyone can take this class. We all move our bodies in different ways," she said. "I always tell people, 'Your heart doesn't know which way you're moving, it just appreciates you moving. How hard an individual works is really up to that person.'"
Zumba is unlike a traditional instructional class, where fitness instructors are often wearing a microphone and speaking during the class. In Zumba, Schimmelpenninck said that instructors lead with their bodies and the music. 
This format lifts the pressure off of the participants as they challenge their bodies to learn new moves at a comfortable pace. Zumba was founded on the idea that working out is suppose to be a party, so often participants forget they are "working out."
"Dancing is so beneficial to the body.  It keeps both sides of the brain firing,  it helps with balance and flexibility,  it gets your heart pumping and the endorphins going," she said.
Participants are encouraged to bring water, comfortable clothes, sneakers to move in, and a friend to dance with. Street parking is available next to the waterfront, and there are parking lots and garage parking around the vicinity also. 
"Zumba is a cardio workout and to me, Zumba is the 'icing on the cake.' It’s the one workout that makes you smile, makes you laugh, and brings you back for more," added instructor Olivia Ebsary, who's been teaching dance fitness for 30 years. 
Zumba at Canalside's FREE classes meet every Tuesday evening at 6 p.m. in the white Canalside VIP Honda tent on the corner of Perry and Main and Sunday morning at 10 a.m. on the middle bridge near the paddle boat area throughout the summer. During the year, Schimmelpenninck takes the party to Fusion Dance Studio in Kenmore every Sunday at 9 a.m. For more information, visit the Buffalo Waterfront website.