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Gray-haired grannies were gettin’ down. Slim sorority sisters were steppin’ to it.
Saturday, their sweat, their strain, might have made Columbia more than the capital of South Carolina. If the folks at Guinness World Records agree, Columbia could be proclaimed the world capital of Zumba, a workout/dance-out set to thumpin’ beats.
More than 1,100 people descended on the Strom Thurmond Fitness Center at the corner of Blossom and Assembly streets in an effort to set the world record for the most people doing Zumba. The Zumbathon, as it was called, was organized by Palmetto Health hospitals as part of its month-long heart health awareness activities.
Tammie Epps, media relations manager for Palmetto Health and the instigator of Zumbathon, said the certified Guinness record for the most people doing Zumba at the same time in the same place is 250. Another recent mass Zumba session was said to have drawn more than 800 people, Epps said, but Guinness has not certified that mark.
Just to be on the safe side, Epps said she and other Zumbathon organizers set their goal at 1,200, well past that 800 number. Organizers stopped counting at 1,135. Then, all they had to do was make sure that small army busted their butts to some blastin’ beats for the next half-hour.
A Zumba workout incorporates dance moves and Latin musical stylings, along with belly dancing and hip-hop moves.
For all of the quirkiness of its records, Guinness takes its work seriously. Zumbathon organizers had to make sure that, for every 50 participants, there was one “watcher” whose job was to make sure people hadn’t just shown up to stand still. Organizers would have to sign statements verifying that they watched the goings-on and that everybody was working.
Kathy Davis sure was.
A 66-year old retired nursing assistant from Elgin, Davis said she learned about Zumbathon through her daughter, Marni Ryan.
It seemed like fun, Davis said, so she, Ryan and Ryan’s 5-year old daughter made the trip to Columbia.
They cut loose, wiggling, clapping, swirling and high-stepping as an assortment of songs blasted from loudspeakers. They kept on moving as Latin rap star Pitbull sneered “I Know You Want Me.”
Pitbull isn’t exactly on Davis’ iPod, but that seemed to matter little.
“It was a lot of fun,” she said of Zumbathon. “And I wasn’t intimidated, even though I can’t dance. I go to weddings, and I still can’t do the electric slide.”
The point, Epps said, is to move — and keep on moving.
“Do something,” she said. “All we’re trying to do is convince people to get moving, do something.”
The sisters of Kappa Kappa Gamma heard that call.
Hannah Miller, a 19-year old sophomore at the University of South Carolina, and Sneha Minisandram, also a 19-year old sophomore at USC, wore their sorority T-shirts to Zumbathon.
“It’s really cool that it’ll be part of a world record,” Minisandram said.
“I told my younger brother, ‘Guess what I’m going to do today? I’m going to break a world record.’ He was probably at home on the couch watching ‘SportsCenter.’”
Epps said she and her colleagues will submit the pictures, video and paperwork to Guinness and wait for confirmation that Zumbathon did, indeed, set a new record.
For Davis, that would be an added bonus. Working up a sweat was what was important.
“I did not feel old and decrepit,” she joked. “I felt useful. It was fun.”