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Zoom Zumba from Honolulu: Almost Like Paradise

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By Diane Medved

During our Covid restrictions, one of the huge treats I’ve missed most has been our yearly winter trip to Hawaii. When Seattle is enshrouded in a gray blanket of drizzle, we’re often privileged to be able to take a week or more to salve my sunshine craving, and over the years we’ve visited a growing number of kama’aina (local Hawaiian residents) who have become dear friends.

Of course, a lot of that has to do with my husband’s obsession with never missing a day of his radio show, and whenever we’re there, he’s always broadcast from the local affiliate. While he’s on the air (Hawaii is two or three hours ahead of Seattle) I’ve enjoyed attending a fabulous Zumba dance-exercise class one of my Hawaiian long-time friends introduced me to. Over the years, the teacher, Jen Hintnaus, and her husband Tom, have also become good friends. Tom attends class, and often hops onstage to lead, too, helping the scattered men in the group feel included. We’ve enjoyed hosting them at our Shabbat tables when we’ve spent the Sabbath in Honolulu.

Jen’s class is easy to follow, upbeat, and yet potently effective. In pre-Covid days, it was held at an open, covered performance stage at a local outdoor mall, and typically attracted 50 and usually more people—some tourists, and a large cadre of neighbors who enjoy the social component and camaraderie. Her encouragement and energetic example as we “single, single, double” our steps to the varied musical styles (heavy on Latin) finds the time zipping while you don’t realize the sweat’s dripping.

I like Zumba because it’s fun, especially with a good teacher. But when the coronavirus shut down my home gym last year, we all had to adapt to the end of our in-person spread of aerosols. Many excellent aerobics instructors took their classes online, and Jen was one of them. I was overjoyed. Generously, she offered her daily classes for free. It was several months into the pandemic before her students urged her to set up a Venmo account so she could at least accept donations, which remains the only kind of compensation she receives for her daily (except Saturdays) classes. Each hour-long class is a different set of seventeen songs, choreographed by Jen (with the help of Zumba).

With Zoom, we participants can choose to have our cameras on, and as we dance, Jen occasionally communicates with us by name, encouraging and praising us. At the end of class, Tom un-mutes everyone, and we can chat with each other—just like the interchange after a “real” in-person class. Jen now attracts participants from many states in the US, who become part of our class friendship network.

Last week after class, Jen told everyone that she’d heard from several friends who listen to The Michael Medved Show that my husband had mentioned his wife’s Zumba teacher. They called Jen to ask, “was that YOU?” Yes, Michael did refer to her (not by name)—because he’s actually proud that I’m so committed to Zumba-ing with her nearly every day. Part of the reward is watching Jen and Tom interact while they’re leading the class; it’s heartwarming to see a couple who clearly loves each other and enjoys sharing their life together. Another big plus is the locale—you can always see the waters of Hawaii Kai, and the ocean behind, and when sometimes Jen comments, “wow, it’s hot!” you know she’s referring to the weather in the 80s. Almost like being in paradise.

Jen would be delighted if you’d like to tune in to her class. You can join her Facebook group, Zumba by Jen, or Zoom in directly (11 am PST, moving to 12 noon when daylight savings time comes) with this link. In the meantime, you can try out her classes via her YouTube page, Tom and Jen Hintnaus. Again, everything is free, though I think you’ll want to donate through her Venmo account, listed on the Facebook page.

Let me know if you try her class, and how you’re liking it. There’s a Yiddish term, “nachas,” which means, roughly, “pride and joy” or “delight,” and if you enjoy her class as much as I do, I’ll feel a bit of “nachas” that you’re dancing along because you heard about Jen from me.

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