ZINCON 2014: Highlights

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Brian fit right in. All he needed was a badge.

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Brian with ZES Tony Witt, one of my Zumba idols.

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My friend Sarah at the kick-off of her very first ZINCON.

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There were a few awards given at the kick-off. Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar was our keynote speaker this year. He was great, but the highlight of the kick-off was definitely Claudia Leitte. What a treat!

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My first session was with Lindsey Taylor, another one of my idols.

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Then it was time for Reggaeton Rebellion with Loretta Bates and Marcie Benavides, two more of my Zumba idols.

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Loretta Bates is amazing!

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It wasn’t until halfway through the session that I realized Missy was in my same workshop! It was a great surprise!

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We got great pics with Loretta, Marcie, and DJ Francis.

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Lauren and Kelsi were on the same floor as me at the hotel.

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Mastering the business of fun!

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Zumba Step master class with Marcie.

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Here are some pictures from Zumba Gold training.

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I learned Zumba Gold from the best, Ann Saldi and Lars Wensink.

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Brian did some shopping for me while I was learning stuff.

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Brian also ran into Johanna and Yira from Santo Domingo.

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We met these two amazing Zumba instructors while we were at Barceló a couple of months ago. They’re like the Latin American versions of Lauren and Kelsi. These partnerships make me wish I had a ZIN BFF of my own.

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Here’s a picture of us waiting in line to enter the fitness-concert.

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While we were in line for the fitness-concert, a group of Venezuelan Zumba instructors entertained us by singing and dancing. Brian got some videos.

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We were in the line for the fitness-concert for an hour or so but the entertainment made the wait go by faster.

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It seemed like there were a lot more people at this year’s fitness-concert. I thought the fitness-concert last year was cooler though. This year people weren’t following the rules. They brought bags and water bottles even though they weren’t supposed to and people wouldn’t spread out so we could barely move to dance.

Here’s a video of the mass exodus after the fitness-concert.

Pictures really don’t do it justice. You just have to experience a ZINCON fitness-concert for yourself to truly appreciate the craziness.

The next day I had Zumba Step training with the amazing Marcie Benavides and Eric Aglia. Several other ZESes helped also.

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Here’s a picture of Marcie with all the ZESes who helped during training.

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If you think Eric Aglia (guy in the red pants) looks familiar, it’s because he’s one of the instructors featured in the Zumba World Party video game.

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I am in such awe of Marcie. I can’t believe this woman is 40. She doesn’t look like it at all. My goal is to hopefully be as healthy and fit as she is when I’m 40.

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I snapped a few photos to memorialize my Zumba Step training. I feel so blessed to have learned Zumba Step from the best.

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Here’s a picture of me with the trainers taken at the end of our training workshop.

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I had to get another pictures with Eric when I ran into him in the elevator because this guy is amazing. I was front and center for training but apparently I wasn’t memorable because he didn’t remember me from class. LOL.

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This is a photo of Francesca Maria performing at the theme party.

Dahrio Wonder and Gina Grant performed.

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Armando Salcedo and Heidy Torres performed.

Other performances included Myrto, El Chevo, and Mara. Claudia Leitte performed during the kick-off event. Wisin performed during the fitness-concert. For the theme party there were several performances. There are rising Zumba performers everywhere so each time someone came out they would say which country was represented.

It’s so amazing how Zumba brings the world together. There were 97 countries represented this year. ZIN members from all over the world traveled to Orlando to participate in this year’s ZINCON. Amazing feels like an understatement. I always say that there are no words to describe ZINCON. It just has to be experienced first hand.

This year’s theme party was not as elaborate as last year but the performances were great. People had some crazy costumes last year. It also felt like several people opted to skip the theme party this year. Last year that whole area right outside the ballroom was packed. We were shoulder to shoulder, and there were even more people inside the ballroom. I’m thinking that the $9 Bud Light bottles might have something to do with it. Yes, the drinks were crazy expensive. I think they were even more expensive this year than last year.

Brian and I were smart this year, though. The Walgreens next to the Rosen Centre sells beer and wine so we stocked our fridge and pantry. Since we were drinking every night we were there, we didn’t feel compelled to spend hundreds of dollars on drinks at the party. Plus, I didn’t really care to drink the Bud Lights because I had Angry Orchards back at our hotel room.

We didn’t stay at the theme party too late. We just stayed for all of the performers we’d never seen perform live before. After all of that, the official ZINCON house band took over and we’d watched them perform last year. They just do mostly covers anyway. They sang this year’s hits but it’s still the same guys. We didn’t really feel like we were missing much by taking off before midnight.

Besides, I had a big day the next day. I had a session with Filipino ZES Prince Paltu-Ob. He came highly recommended by my friend and fellow ZIN Gerard Patalano who I met at last year’s ZINCON. I’d heard great things about Prince from others also so I was super excited. I was actually the first one in class. I got there even before he did. We snapped this photo before our session started.

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I met other Filipino ZINs in our workshop. We snapped this photo after class.

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The session with Prince was my last one before the closing session. This was a big deal because this was the first time ever that they’d had a closing session on the schedule. Usually everything just kind of ends after your last session.

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Anyway, we finally got to see the third Alberto, Alberto Aghion. Everybody knows Alberto Perez aka Beto because he is the face of Zumba. If you’ve ever been to ZINCON, then you’ve also seen Zumba CEO Alberto Perlman. He always speaks at the kick-off event. There’s rarely ever an Alberto Aghion sighting. I guess you could say he is the “silent” partner. LOL. I always thought the guy was imaginary until now.

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This is the holy trinity of Zumba, the three Albertos, all in one place right here. It’s amazing the universe didn’t implode. You never see these three guys together. Or as Beto would say, chugether.

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Here’s something else you don’t see very often: Beto, Gina Grant, Kass Martin, Loretta Bates, Marcie Benavides, and Ann Saldi all dancing on the same stage.

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What a treat!

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Here’s a short clip. Pardon the audio quality.

After the closing session we headed to the pool to hang out. Holy cow! It was so packed. I think word got out that this was the place to be at the end of ZINCON. It was the complete reverse of the theme party. There were actually a ton more people hanging out at the pool this year than last year. There were no lounge chairs available. At all.

We were lucky that Pat and Missy decided to skip the closing session. They were already hanging out at the pool. They were leaving for the airport at three o’clock so we just ended up taking over their two lounge chairs. If it wasn’t for that, we would never have gotten lounge chairs. People actually ended up putting towels on the pavement and just setting their stuff down because there were no lounge chairs available. It wasn’t like this last year.

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I don’t really like the way I look these days because I’m way up in weight compared to a couple of years ago but I have to post this picture. I can’t believe I finally met Azuka Boutcher in real life. She’s another one of those mythical creatures.

She was one of the original faces of Zumba along with Gina Grant and Tanya Beardsley. It was the Gina, Tanya, and Azuka before it was just Gina and Tanya. And now there is only one. Just Gina.

I had met Gina and Tanya for the first time during the Gina and Tanya Rock the Stage Tour a couple of years ago. Azuka was already doing her own thing, Kazaxe, a this point. Azuka is not really one you will see unless you go to take one of her classes in Virginia. I mean, I don’t really see her traveling to Kansas so it was awesome to see her at ZINCON. I felt like such a stalker walking over to ask for a photo with her but it was totally worth it in the end. I would have regretted not getting this photo.

We had dinner at B-Line on our last night at the hotel. We didn’t really feel like venturing out because we still had to pack and at this point, I wasn’t even sure that we’d have enough room in our luggage for all the stuff that Brian bought for us. On our way back to our room, we ran into Ricardo Marmitte and his friends. All I have to say is, he is the coolest guy ever.

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Ricardo and his friends were so friendly and welcoming. If we didn’t have to pack and didn’t have an early flight the next day, I would have totally just tagged along with this group. I still kind of regret not taking advantage of the opportunity to visit and learn about everyone. I mean, how often do you get a chance to hang out with Zumba celebrities. Maybe next year.

And then, just like that, it was over. I have more pictures from ZINCON 2014 on my Flickr so be sure and check those out. I met some new people this year. Saw friends I had met previously like Charisse and Gerard. I also captured some videos. I could only send a few of them to Flickr. The rest won’t upload for some reason. I’ll probably post some of my favorites videos here — of those that I could upload anyway. Stay tuned.

ZINCON 2014: First Impressions

I really had high expectations this year after an amazing Zumba Instructor Conference in 2013. I didn’t think this year’s ZINCON was as cool as last year’s — I mean, last year was amazing, so it would be pretty hard to live up to it — but I still had a ton of fun. There were aspects of ZINCON that were better last year than this year and vice versa.

Check in was really smooth this year. I think it’s because they had the desks open for longer hours. Our bags this year were a different style than last year, which is good because I already have two of those one-shoulder backpack bags (one from the 2013 Conference and one from the 2014 Convention). We got a commemorative convention shirt, but the quality of the shirts isn’t as good as last year. Also notably missing were our ZINCON 2014 bracelets. I didn’t really miss those as much as other attendees. I thought the free luggage tag more than made up for the bracelets. I love, love, love my Zumba logo luggage tag. I actually used it on my carry on luggage on the way home.

I thought the signage was somewhat scaled down this year. The graffiti walls were a really nice touch, though. There were several throughout the convention center and Hyatt Regency. I wrote several notes. Brian wrote on them too.

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The graffiti walls were great! Totally made up for not having as many of the massive signs all over the convention area.

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Here’s a picture of me in front of the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. It is hands down the largest convention center I’ve ever been in.

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The hotels around the convention center got in on the festivities by having drink specials. Found this board at the Hilton.

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We didn’t really spend a lot of money on meals (other than our $150 anniversary dinner at The Oceanaire) because we picked up groceries. This is what the pantry and fridge of a ZINCON pro looks like. LOL.

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We were so much more prepared this year compared to last year. It helps to know what to expect. We got wine, beer, and snacks. We didn’t go hungry at all.

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I also loved all of the flash mobs this year. They were popping up everywhere. Last year the focus was the Zumba World Party video game demo. This year they added the ZIN DJ stage which was really a great area for showcasing some talented instructors. The districts really got into it. I loved watching all of their performances.

One of the reasons ZINCON 2013 is hard to top is because it was so well-conceived. This year the theme was somewhat all over the place. It wasn’t as cohesive as last year. However, there are so many great things they added this year that we didn’t have last year. For instance, we actually got to see the third Alberto. I thought he was a myth for the longest time. He’s a real person after all.

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I guess part of the reason that I still think that ZINCON 2013 was the best is because it was my first. Your first is always the most memorable, I guess. However, there were so many awesome things about ZINCON 2014 so I think it’s equally amazing in its own right. If you’ve never been to a Zumba instructor convention, you have to check it out. There really are no words to describe this event. It has to be experienced in person. Oowa! Oowa!

Shakira Grand Slam

Here’s some trivia for you. Did you know that Shakira has performed at three consecutive FIFA World Cup finals events? Oh, yes. And she was amazing all three times.

Here’s the proof.

FIFA 2006 (Germany)

FIFA 2010 (South Africa)

FIFA 2014 (Brazil)

All three songs are huge in the Zumba world. Seriously. Not just these three, actually. She has so many great songs that are perfect for Zumba. You could do a whole class of just all Shakira songs (though you’re not really supposed to do that). Just saying. I love Shakira! And, apparently I’m not alone. FIFA loves her too.

Aqua Zumba at Andover YMCA

My goal this summer is to learn enough Aqua Zumba routines for a full class. Since I got my license to teach Aqua Zumba earlier this year I’ve really been somewhat reluctant to start teaching it. Unlike after my Zumba Basic 1 training when I just jumped right in to teaching classes, I’m a bit apprehensive about teaching Aqua Zumba. I think maybe some of it has to do with my limited experience taking these classes. I have only taken a handful. All of them have been very good so that’s made me feel somewhat intimidated and inadequate to teach the format. On top of that, Aqua Zumba is really physically taxing on the instructor. We were taught this in training but then I thought, it can’t be that bad. I learned just how exhausting it can be to teach Aqua Zumba first hand when Alexa let me teach one song in her class last Wednesday. Holy cow! I was so winded after teaching just one song. I came to the conclusion that (a) I need to get in better shape in order to teach the format without dying or throwing up at the end of class, (b) I need to learn techniques for conserving my energy throughout class so I can survive, or both.

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Here are some pictures and videos from Alexa’s class last Wednesday.

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These videos will give you a sense of what taking an Aqua Zumba class is like. It really is super fun and a great workout. I highly recommend trying the class if you’ve never taken one before. Or if you have, I recommend checking out Alexa’s class on Wednesday nights at Andover YMCA because she is a fantastic Aqua Zumba instructor.

I feel very fortunate to be able to shadow Alexa and have her as my mentor. She is so talented. I know that I will learn a lot from her. Come join us this Wednesday at Andover YMCA. The class meets at 7 PM outside in the waterpark. See you all there!

Zumba in the Square

At least once a year I participate in Zumba in the Square. The last couple of years I’ve attended I didn’t teach. This year I actually got to teach four songs. I’m so glad the weather held up for us. It was the perfect day for outdoor Zumba.

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Here are some of my favorite photos from Saturday night.

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It was prom night for several high schools so we had some teenagers in prom attire dance with us. It was quite a sight!

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Brian proved yet again that he is the most awesome husband ever. He hung out with us all night and took photos and videos. You can find some of the videos on my Zumba Fitness with Ching Facebook page and others are on the Flip and Ching Facebook page.

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Here’s a photo of me and my friend Nick.

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Missy and I were twins on Saturday night.

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I had such a great time. You’ll have to join us next time! You won’t regret it.

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Huge thanks to the most awesome husband ever for taking all of these photos!

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Fun Friday Night

Had a great Friday. Zumba Master Class with ZES Tony Witt was fantastic. Thanks to Pat and Wheels Studio for bringing Tony to Wichita. What a treat!

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Here are some pictures from before and after the Master Class.

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After the Master Class everyone headed over to Caffe Moderne for dinner but I couldn’t join them because I was meeting Brian, Jorge, and Tobi at Sabor. It seems to be their favorite place to eat here in town. Maybe because of its proximity to the hotel. The food is great too, though.

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Here are some pictures of the food we had at dinner.

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This is the adobo pork which Brian and I split. This is half of the entree in the photo.

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These are papusas.

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Flan. Yum!

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Fried cheesecake. Also yummy!

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Tres leches cake. One of my favorite desserts at Sabor.

This is probably the most expensive bottle of wine that Brian has drank to date.

I got to try this 20 year old port at the restaurant. I liked it so much that we ended up buying a bottle of it at Groves the other day. It’s good but it was better that night. Probably because I was already a glass of sangria in. LOL. This is definitely one of those drinks you drink when you are finished drinking for the evening.

Had a great time with our Latin American friends as always. Any more, these are the only occasions that I get to practice my limited Spanish. I’m really shy about speaking Spanish normally because I feel very self-conscious. Apparently I get really chatty after a glass of wine. If only I can remember what I’d been talking about the next day then my Spanish skills would be further along. LOL.

What a great Friday night overall!

Aqua Zumba Sandals

Sixteen lucky women in my Aqua Zumba training got free Aqua Zumba sandals from Speedo. I was jealous but happy for them at the same time also. Check out the two designs that they are testing right now.

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2014 Zumba Instructor Conference — Day 3

Day 3 consisted Aqua Zumba training. Yes! I am finally licensed to teach Aqua Zumba. Finally! I really wanted to get my Aqua Zumba at the 2013 Zumba Instructor Convention but the training sessions were full by the time I registered. I’m so glad I was able to get in the training this time around.

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Here’s a photo of me with out instructor Caroline Parsons. She is the new lead Zumba Education Specialist (ZES) for the Aqua Zumba training program.

As they say, things happen for a reason. I never did catch Beto at the convention last year but this time he actually got in the pool and took the Aqua Zumba master class with us. What at treat!

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Not only did I get a photo with Beto, I got photo with Beto with his shirt off!

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I caught a glimpse of the Zumba Step demo during our lunch break. I was too late to participate in it, though. I think I’m going to ask for the Zumba Incridible Results DVD set this year for either my birthday or Christmas because I doubt that any of the gyms here in town will pick it up. It’s just too much like other existing group exercise formats. At least, I don’t think the YMCA will offer it.

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Oh, and guess who I ran into while I was watching the Zumba Step demo. None other than the handsome David Velez, of course. You might recall him from my post about day 2 because he helped Steve Boedt with our Pro Skills training.

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Besides photos with Caroline, David, and Beto, I also got a photo with Richard and Jill from the Aqua Zumba team.

Actually, practically the whole Aqua Zumba training team was there on Sunday afternoon. I wish that I could have gotten a photo with all of them.

2014 Zumba Instructor Conference — Day 2

I missed mentioning the Burlesque and Fierce Funk workshops that I took on day 1 of the conference because I didn’t have any photos. My phone ran out of battery.

Burlesque was awesome. Gina Grant taught it along with Betsy Dopico and Melissa Chiz. They showed us five Burlesque routines. I wish there were choreo notes because I can’t remember any of them to save my life. They were super fun, though.

Fierce Funk with Pepper Von was great too. Check out his Fierce Funk web site for links to music and choreography.

So those two workshops happened between the kick off session and the Augie’s Quest fitness concert. The fitness concert was great but it wasn’t half as good as the one in Orlando. It was still a lot of fun, though.

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Day 2 consisted of Zumba Pro Skills with Steve Boedt. He is beyond amazing. Seriously. What a treat too because Gina Grant, Donna Giffen, and David Velez all helped with the training. How many people can say they took Pro Skills with four of the best Zumba Education Specialists? LOL.

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And the best part? I was third in line so I was front and center during the training. In other words, I was in the splash zone. Literally. Steve sweats a lot. I actually got some of his DNA on me and I almost didn’t want to shower at the end of the day.

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Here are some of the photos I took during training.

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This is where he showed us how the A/V team used condoms to keep the mic receivers from getting gross. I guess condoms were the best way they could think of to keep sweat and dirt off the technology. Interesting.

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This is my favorite photo of the day. For obvious reasons.

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Here’s a picture of the theme party. This one wasn’t as cool or as fun as the one in Orlando. There were entertainers working the crowd. No photo booth. No face painting. The conference hall decorations were sparse. Actually, other than the lighting, I’m not sure there were any. No big name performers. Not even an impersonator. LOL.

The party was fun but pales in comparison to the theme party at the 2013 Zumba Instructor Convention in Orlando. If you guys get a chance, I highly recommend attending the conference first before attending the convention that way you’re building up. After attending the convention, you have such high expectations that it’s hard not be disappointed.

The event itself was fantastic and the trainings and workshops were high quality but the fitness concert and the theme party were not as elaborate as Orlando. That’s all.

2014 Zumba Instructor Conference — Day 1

Here’s a photo of my travel mates — Lisa, Pat, and Stephanie — at breakfast.

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The three of them traveled together because they flew through United. I used Brian’s frequent flier miles (thus, my airfare only cost me the $10 handling charge roundtrip) so I had to use American Airlines. I arrived only an hour behind them so it wasn’t too bad. Although, they had a nonstop from Los Angeles to Wichita on the way home so that was nice. I, on the other hand, had another layover in Dallas.

I can’t complain, though. Even though my choices were limited, using the frequent flier miles saved me almost $500.

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I’m glad that I saved money on airfare because our hotel was not cheap. We stayed at the JW Marriott at LA Live which is right across from the Staples Center and just a short walk from the Los Angeles Convention Center (LACC). That convenience came at a price. It’s worth every penny, though.

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Check out the view of our hotel from the LACC.

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The one nice thing about the Los Angeles Zumba Instructor Conference compared to the Zumba Instructor Convention in Orlando is that there were no lines at registration. Probably because the conference is a much smaller event consisting of only about 5,000 or so Zumba instructors.

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We got badges and goodie bags in no time. We didn’t get free conference shirts this time. However, we did get free Zumba sweat towels in our goodie bags.

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The goodie bags are just like the backpacks they gave us at the convention except they’re in the conference theme colors. Lisa is modeling hers below. She must have a sixth sense or something because her day 1 outfit perfectly matched the conference colors. Even her Asics and cellphone case matched!

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Here’s a photo of Stephanie, Pat, and Lisa, on our way to the kick off session.

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And then here they are at the kick off session.

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It was insane! I think there was enough energy packed in the conference hall to power a small village for a month. LOL. Zumba instructors are so energetic!

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There was an LA Lakers game that same night at the Staples Center but we had a date with the Augie’s Quest Fitness Concert. A basketball game would be something fun for Brian to do if he does go with me next time so I made a mental note of it.

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Here are some pictures from the fitness concert…

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If you think this is a lot of people, wait until you see the size of the crowd at the fitness concert at the Orlando convention. This is nothing compared to that.

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That was pretty much all of day 1 in a nutshell. I’m amazed that I lasted the entire fitness concert considering I was running on 3 hours of sleep that day and I was up for almost 24 hours the night before. I must have absorbed some energy from my fellow Zumba instructors. What an amazing experience!

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