“I will start this over,” she says with a grin.
It feels a bit like a pep rally, but make no mistake: This “werk” is really work. On the floor, arms are in the air, knees reach higher and higher. The unmistakable beat of go-go music reverberates through the room.
This is Z-GoGo. The Z is a nod to Zumba, a dance workout generally choreographed to Latin music. But instead of dancing to the Latin rhythms, students across the region are working out to the music they grew up on. They describe Z-GoGo as a fun, high-energy way to shed extra pounds.
“I love go-go music, so this was something that was really special for me,” says Titania Benton-Ellis, a Z-GoGo devotee who grew up in Alexandria.
Z-GoGo was founded by Tucker, Erica Berry and Tricia Barnes, all native Washingtonians. Tucker had been teaching traditional Zumba classes and decided to test out a new routine — one choreographed exclusively to go-go — for eight students in a small Anacostia dance studio. Her students were hooked.
That was in February of last year. Today, classes are taught in locations across the Washington area. D.C. expats have even started classes in Washington state. And there are Z-GoGo offshoots — a low-impact class for workout novices and a “Z-Gospel” workout set to gospel tunes.
Class sizes vary, but instructors say a typical class, like the one held on a recent Monday night at Iverson Mall in Hillcrest Heights, can draw more than 100 people. A lead instructor and a fitness team — several Z-GoGo enthusiasts trained to hype up attendees — demonstrate the moves. The format mirrors the call-and-response vocals found in go-go music.
Kelli Anderson, a 33-year-old mother of twins from Southeast, is a friendly face at Iverson and other Z-GoGo classes, where she’s known to yell out encouraging phrases to attendees. (“There’s nothing wrong with making it sexy,” she says with a laugh while demonstrating an ab-clinching body roll.) She’s been doing Z-GoGo for about nine months and says she’s lost more than 20 pounds.
Vivian Boykins is the main instructor at Iverson, where classes are held three times a week. She had been doing Zumba when a friend suggested they go to a new class choreographed to go-go.
That’s how a lot of attendees hear about the class. “This is all word-of-mouth,” Tucker says. Z-GoGo promotes its programs on its Web site and Facebook, but she says the organizers have never paid for advertising because they want to keep the price of each class low at $5. Students can also buy a $20 pass for five classes.
The majority of students are working and middle class, Tucker says, and the group finds other ways to keep costs down, offering free classes to children 15 and younger so they can work out alongside their moms.