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Children jump and dance while participating in Zumbatomic at the Midway Park Community Center , at the housing community aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. Zumbatomic gave the children an opportunity to have fun while working out and learning about other cultures.

Photo by Lance Cpl. JackelineM. Perez Rivera

Children dance to health in new Zumbatomic class

21 Jun 2012 | Lance Cpl. Jackeline M. Perez Rivera

Midway Park community center is offering an alternate way for kids to work out with a high energy Zumbatomic class for children between the ages of 6 and 12.

Zumbatomic is a children’s version of Zumba, a workout combining soul with exercise through a fusion of dance and athletics, breaking the monotony of jumping jacks and running laps.  

The Zumbatomic classes are held Wednesdays at 5 p.m. and are taught by Ryoko Burns, along with other Semper Fit physical trainers.

Burns, who is affectionately known as Ms Riyo by her students, is a force of positivity. She pours her energy into teaching students about many aspects of Zumbatomic, including social skills, self-esteem and cultural awareness.

“Zumba is very popular,” said Burns. “It’s a Latin dance exercise, but it’s not just about dancing. It helps children have more confidence, and it will teach them about respecting one another.”

Burns creates a positive environment for the children, where all body types and athletic levels can have fun and work out.  

Although there are scheduled parent performances, parents are not present during the typical class, which Victoria Braggiotti, the recreation specialist at the Midway Park Community Center said draws many children out of their shells.  

“The kids don’t feel self-conscious, they get to get loose and let go of everything for a while,” said Braggiotti.

She was originally concerned the children would clam up during the class, but even the shyest students danced along and laughed throughout the class.  

Burns teaches the class at the skill level of the students, going over each step and making simple combinations to keep the children involved.

“It’s a fantastic, well-rounded program keeping children engaged,” said Lynn Ramirez, the supervisory recreation specialist of Group Exercise with Semper Fit. “It gives us a chance to reach a population of children who we otherwise wouldn’t be able to reach.”

Children also learn about the cultures that produced the music and the dances. Burns discusses Cumbia, music from Columbia’s Caribbean coast, and will discuss all manner of different cultures with the children as she introduces them to the dances from India and Hawaii to other faraway lands.  

“I want to teach them the moves,” said Burns.  “But, I also want to teach them the culture.”  

Burns is a former school teacher who worked in child development centers and with the military community for years. She is teaching adult fitness classes with Semper Fit but missed her time working with young children.  

“I love teaching adults, but I really missed working with little kids and this class is giving me the opportunity,” said Burns.  

She has been looking forward to bringing the community a fitness program for some time. After some requests from her adult students she decided to bring the idea to Braggitotti, and it took off from there.

“I was very excited when (Burns) came up to talk to me about it,” said Braggiotti. “We have fitness classes for adults and while we have ballet and karate classes for this age group we don’t have anything exercise oriented. They are too young to use the gym, so it’s nice to have a fitness class just for them.”

Despite the program’s youth, it drew in a small crowd from word of mouth alone, parents where excited to have a place that focused on the kid’s age group.

“I think this is great,” said Michelle Nunez, the parent of a child in the class. “It’s giving her an early start with working out.”

Michelle and her husband Staff Sgt. Jorge Nunez, agreed there should more programs like this spread throughout the MCB Camp Lejeune community and hoped parents take advantage of this opportunity.

While the program gives children an early start to working out it leaves them with a positive outlook on the experience. Burns shares her passion for fitness and provides them with something out of the ordinary to keep them healthy.

“We don’t want to hammer them over the head with fitness,” said Braggiotti. “They don’t need to worry about it right now, but later in life, if fitness is something they’ve grown to love, they’ll think about it and go back to it.”

For more information, call 451-1807.