Zumba for life • Brooklyn Paper

Zumba for life

Fight back with fitness: Zumba dancers (from left) Olga Rivera, Debra McCann, Vanessa Romano, Wanda Perez, Debra Torrez, Debbie Gillette, and Kathy Smith pose inside the Avenue U Key Food parking lot where Joe “Zumba Daddy” Gillette organized a Zumba flash mob to raise awarness for the cancer charity event, Relay for Life.
Photo by Arthur De Gaeta

It’s the Latin invasion!

In his ongoing quest to promote Relay for Life, the American Cancer Society’s annual fundraising walk, Joe “Zumba Daddy” Gillette organized a Zumba fitness flash mob Saturday inside the parking lot at the Key Foods grocery store on Avenue U near East 66th Street. While the early morning dance-fitness program inspired by Latin music didn’t fail to raise awareness for the upcoming charity event, it might have spread a small amount of fear and bewilderment amongst passing motorists and nearby Mill Basin residents.

“Everything was great, except there was one lady who heard the Latin music, so she called the police and said there was a riot,” Gillette recalled.

At least, that’s what the store’s offended neighbor told the Zumba dancers. The cops, however, never showed. It remains unclear whether she was just trying to scare off the early morning fitness fanatics, or if she really thought the neon-attired group of about 30 women, children, and a red-faced Joe Gillette, was a full-blown Latin riot.

Either way, she wasn’t the only one dazed and confused by the spontaneous Zumba class.

“People were stopping their cars,” said Gillette. “It’s funny when they don’t know what’s going on, and you see the look on their faces as they try to figure it out from a distance.”

Fortunately, nearby there were some Relay for Life committee members ready to connect the dots for bewildered motorists unable to divine the link between Zumba and fighting cancer.

“We had the committee people standing on the outskirts of the class, and they would approach the people who didn’t look too scared,” Gillette explained.

Since January, Gillette has been using Zumba to advertise the Relay for Life events. He earned the moniker “Zumba Daddy” after organizing a world record attempt for the largest indoor Zumba class. While Gillette didn’t quite meet his goal, recordsetter.com said the event at the Aviator Sports and Events Center earned the record for largest Zumba class in New York City.

The New Yorker describes recordsetter.com as “a website that is to the Guinness World Records as Wikipedia is to the Encyclopaedia Britannica.”

Zumba may have a loose connection to fighting cancer through the general theme of fitness and healthy living, but, more than anything, it’s the irony and humor of watching a somewhat rotund Gillette exerting himself to the beat of contemporary Latin hits that draws the most attention to the cancer charity.

“When you see me, the big guy in the neon shirt trying to keep up, a lot of people don’t want their kids approaching that,” Gillette joked.

Relay for Life is the Cancer Society’s overnight community fund-raising walk in which teams of people take turns walking around an indoor track. There are numerous relays in Brooklyn from April through June. Gillette is raising awareness for the event at the John Malone Community Center in Bergen Beach on June 1 and 2. Sponsors Brooklyn Roasting Company and Brooklyn Burgers will be serving hot food and coffee on the cheap.

There’s no need to RSVP, just show up, and enjoy the event that’s more fiesta than health seminar, according to Gillette.

“Since it’s the culmination of the fund raising, it’s a big kind of block party thing,” said Gillette. “We have our teams all set, so people can just come down. It’s going to be a good time.”

Support the fight against cancer and check our Relay for Life at the John Malone Community Center [2335 Bergen Avenue between avenues W and X in Bergen Beach] June 1, 4 pm. Free

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4514.

Latin fitness invasion: Joe “Zumba Daddy” Gillette hosted a zumba flash mob at the Avenue U Key Foods parking lot on Saturday to raise awarness for the cancer charity event, Relay for LIfe.
Photo by Arthur De Gaeta

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