Beto Perez is the creator of Zumba.

Origins of Zumba

by Dani Arbuckle

Zumba is an immensely popular exercise, with 14 million participants as of 2013. But the unique exercise, which combines aerobics and Latin dance, didn't develop overnight. Zumba's history begins in Colombia, but it developed in Miami and has since exploded internationally. As of 2013 you can find Zumba instructors in 151 countries.

Beto Perez

Beto Perez, the creator of Zumba, first became interested in dance while growing up in Colombia. Perez told "Reader's Digest" that he saw the movie "Grease" at age 7 or 8 and knew he wanted to dance. But Perez grew up in a poor home and couldn't afford lessons. The self-taught dancer gained success nonetheless, winning the Colombian national lambada contest at age 19. He was then invited to study dance at a top academy, while teaching step aerobics on the side.

The First Zumba Class

The first Zumba class was not planned, but the result of Perez's problem solving. While teaching an aerobics class in Colombia, Perez forgot his usual music. Perez instead used some Latin music from his own collection and worked his Latin dance moves into the routine. As he explains on the Zumba website, "I looked in my bag, took out some salsa and merengue tapes, popped them into the sound system, and taught the first-ever Zumba class."

Move to America

Having established himself as a successful trainer and choreographer in Colombia, Perez made the move to the United States in the 1990s. Perez attempted to introduce his workouts to gym managers. He made four trips to the U.S. before having any success. During a trip in 1999 a gym manager in Miami asked Perez to teach him personally. So Perez lead an impromptu one-on-one Zumba class. By the end of the workout others were already joining in and Perez was asked to teach a regular class.

Corporate Development

After establishing himself as a fitness instructor in Miami, Perez was approached by investors who wanted to market his unique workouts. Together they established Zumba as a company. In 2001 they developed the first Zumba DVD which sold 1 million copies in six months. People started asking to become Zumba instructors and in 2003 they began offering instructors' workshops. As a result, Zumba developed a network of instructors. As of 2013 the company boasts 140,000 locations in the 151 countries where you can take Zumba classes.

Photo Credits

  • Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images