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Day 4 of ZINCON 2016

Posted on August 11, 2016 by under Travel, Zumba.    

Here’s Brian sporting his new Zumba sweatpants on our final full day in Orlando…

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My final session of ZINCON 2016 was Sabor Cubano with ZES Betsy Dopico and Team CUBA. Here are a couple of videos from the demo they did at the beginning of the workshop.

The demo was meant to give us a preview of the rhythms prevalent in Cuban music: Rumba, Son, Cha-Cha-Cha, Mambo, Timba, Conga, and Cubaton.

I know Betsy said it wasn’t meant to be a show but it was a great visual presentation of the history and development of Cuban rhythms.

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Here’s one of my favorite photos from the session.

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This is a great one of Betsy up close.

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I went straight to the closing session after Sabor Cubano because I knew the line would be long already. I was right. This is as close as I could get. The picture above is of Zumba CEO Alberto Perlman, also known as AP. I actually got a picture with him in 2013, when I attended my very first ZINCON.

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After the closing session, I went back to the room to help Brian pack because we have an early departure the next day. While we were packing, I showed him my impressive ZINCON hotel room keycard collection.

All the way up on the 26th floor, we could hear the loud music coming from the Hyatt Regency pool below. It was so tempting to go down there. However, we were responsible and did our packing and then got ready to meet our old neighbors Jim and Karen for dinner.

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Brian and I walked over to Pointe Orlando, where we were meeting Jim and Karen, a few minutes early so we could do some Pokémon GO hunting. LOL. This seemed like a nice place to stop and catch some mons while we waited for them.

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We initially talked about going to Cuba Libre because I had a hankering for Cuban food (specially after my Sabor Cubano session that morning) but they weren’t open yet and we were hungry.

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We ended up eating at the Pub Orlando instead. Brian ate there without me three years ago. He walked over there while I was in one of my sessions.

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I was originally bummed about not getting Cuban food while in Florida but the fabulous dinner company more than made up for it. Also, the Pub has an extensive beer list which was great for these two.

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Jim ordered the fish and chips.

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Brian had the ham sandwich on a pretzel roll, which is his favorite thing to get there. How you have a favorite sandwich at a place you’ve only been to twice in your life is beyond me. He says it is his favorite, though.

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Karen and I ordered the exact same thing: the chicken tenders with the side of mac and cheese. The mac and cheese was amazing. I would order it all again.

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It was so wonderful to see Jim and Karen again. We’ve missed them so much.

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Day 3 of ZINCON 2016

Posted on August 10, 2016 by under Events, Travel, Zumba.    

Of all of the trainings I’ve ever taken at ZINCON, I looked forward to Zumba Basic 2 with ZES Loretta Bates the most. Why? Because she is AMAZING!

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The best part about the training is that she was assisted by two very talented people: ZES George Iu and ZES Michael Marmitte.

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ZES Priscilla Mirabal from Oklahoma was there to help as well. Interestingly, Priscilla was the ZES who trained Loretta when she was licensed years ago.

In Basic 1, we learned the four basic rhythms: Salsa, Merengue, Cumbia, and Reggaeton. In Basic 2, we learned six additional rhythms: Flamenco, Samba, Belly Dance, Soca, Tango, and Quebradita. We also learned about stylistic separation which is important for staying true to the unique flavor of each distinct rhythm.

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Anyway, after a fabulous Basic 2 training, it was time for the prom night theme party. We ran into some of friends from Wichita: Abby, Crystal, and Gina.

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I also ran into the fabulous Chuany who we met on the cruise back in January. She’s an instructor at Betsy and Beto’s studio.

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For my prom outfit, I found an $8 dress from Goodwill which fit me perfectly. It’s a short dress so I didn’t have to worry about having to get it hemmed. I got a pair of silver Street Boss sneakers from Zumba.com to go with my dress. I also wore my ZINCON 2013 wristbands because the colors actually worked with my dress.

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Here’s a look at the whole outfit. See, I wasn’t the only one wearing sneakers!

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The craziest part about this next photo is not everyone attended the theme party.

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This is just a fraction of the people at ZINCON. Andrea and I didn’t end up getting official prom photos because the lines at all of the photo stations were long. Even though there was more than one photo area, they all had long lines. Andrea and I did manage to find the lash and lip bar. That was fun. They gave us fake eyelashes and glitter lipstick. It reminded me of the face-painting booth at the ZIN Soiree in 2013. The theme that year was A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Here’s how we looked with our fake eyelashes, glitter lipstick, and jewels…

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I had such a blast hanging out with Andrea at ZINCON. I’m so glad she could attend this year!

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Day 2 of ZINCON 2016

Posted on August 10, 2016 by under Travel, Zumba.    

Day 2 consisted of Zumba Sentao training. Because he’s awesome, Brian walked me to my training which is clear past the convention center at the Hilton. It’s the furthest class from everything.

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Anyway, not only did he walk me to class, he made a friend too.

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ZES Abraham Hernandez presented the training with a lot of help from these two lovely ladies: Karla (left) and Nathalia (right).

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Training got a little out of hand a few times leading up to this. Yes, the class managed to talk Abraham into taking his shirt off. Then Nathalia had to spoil the fun by being protective. LOL.

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As with any training, there were fun parts, there were boring parts, and there were painful parts. The group work at the end of the session was particularly painful because the class was way too big… But we managed to make it through without any fights breaking out. So I guess that’s a victory.

I actually didn’t plan to take Zumba Sentao originally. I really wanted to get into to STRONG by Zumba, the newest format in the Zumba portfolio. However, all of the STRONG sessions at ZINCON were already full by the time Brian was able to get into the online registration system. I’m already licensed to teach all of the other formats so that’s how I ended up enrolled in Sentao training.

After my training class, Andrea, Brian and I hung out for a while before the fitness concert. I was going to skip the fitness concert this year but I ended up going for a couple of reasons. First, none of Andrea’s roommates wanted to go so she didn’t have anyone to go with and she didn’t want to go alone. I wanted her to experience the fitness concert since it’s her very first ZINCON so I told her I would go with her. Second, I wanted to be there just in case something really cool happened.

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We kind of coordinated. 😉

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We ran into two of her roomies, Andra and Pat, on our way to the fitness concert.

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Here’s are a few obligatory goofy photos. Just ’cause.

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Ran into some Pinoys.

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At the fitness concert, I was good and followed the rules. I only took a couple of pictures. Beto hates it when people just stand and take photos/videos instead of dancing. I figured, I’d already gotten it out of my system the first couple of years. Plus, we were toward the front so he could actually see us and I didn’t want the man to think badly of me. He is, after all, the God of Zumba.

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When Andrea and I got to the convention center, the line was already almost out the door. We didn’t wait very long before the doors opened to let everyone in. Since we got there later than I wanted, I was amazed that we were able to get so close to the stage. The reason became apparent as soon as the music started. We were right underneath a set of speakers!

We lasted about a song and a half before we decided to move several rows back. I made a mental note to bring earplugs to the fitness concert just in case I end up right under the speakers again.

I was also amazed by the number of selfie sticks I saw considering selfie sticks were banned from the fitness concert. Not sure how everyone got their selfie sticks past security. Then again, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Security is usually pretty lacking at ZINCON. They didn’t even check my ID at registration.

After the fitness concert, Andrea, Brian, and I hung out in our hotel room for a bit while Brian made us lunches for the next day. We introduced Andrea to Nutella and completely rocked her world. LOL.

Come back next time to hear about my Zumba Basic 2 training with ZES (and uber Z-lebrity) Loretta Bates which, in a word, was AMAZING!

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Day 1 of ZINCON 2016

Posted on August 7, 2016 by under Travel, Zumba.    

Day 1 for me consisted of the kick off session, Bachata Extreme with Carlos Henriquez and Mo Diakite, Learn to Cue Like a Pro with Michael Thomas, and Armando Salcedo’s master class. I respected the rules this year and didn’t take any videos of the routines, which I immediately regretted because it’s only been a week and I can barely remember anything. I totally overestimated by memory.

Bachata Extreme was phenomenal. I highly recommend it. Carlos and Mo did a fantastic job. They were super organized and even gave us choreo notes in our workshop handout which we received in an email prior to arriving at ZINCON. We also danced the two songs we learned at least four times. I was like, “There’s no way that I’m not going to remember this.” I was wrong.

There was so much information crammed in my brain over the next four days that by the end of the second day, I couldn’t remember the titles of the two songs we learned in the Bachata Extreme workshop let alone the choreos. Next year, I’m totally saving Bachata Extreme for my final session so that it will be easier to remember the awesome routines.

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I had Learn to Cue Like a Pro next. After taking Pro Skills with Steve Boedt and after teaching Zumba for over four years, you’d think that I have this cuing thing down. However, I still feel like my cuing can use some improvement.

What exactly is cuing? A cue is a word or an action that tells class participants what will come next. Cuing is very important not just for safety reasons but because also telling the class what comes next helps them to be more successful. When you can cue really well, you don’t have to stop in between songs to explain the choreo to the class because you can tell them exactly what to do and when to do it using strong cuing skills. I’ve been working on my cuing since I first started teaching Zumba classes and I continue to work on it. I really try to focus on cuing well and I believe my strong emphasis on cuing is why people find me pretty easy to follow, which I hear a lot. I often tell people that my class is super duper easy but Susan, one of my regulars, is quick to correct me. “You’re easy to follow but your class is definitely challenging,” she says.

I have a pretty textbook approach to my Zumba classes: I always try to follow the Zumba formula as much as possible; I make it a point to incorporate a variety of rhythms; and I am extremely anal about having a 10-15 minute warm up because I use a lot of fitness moves like squats, lunges, and jumping jacks throughout the class. They’re disguised, of course, so the class doesn’t realize it but I would say there’s definitely 30-35% fitness moves in every class I teach. As with anything, you get what you put in. You can take it pretty easy or you can kick up it up a notch with big movements, deep squats, and maintaining a high intensity throughout the class.

But I digress… Back to cuing… I use a combination of both verbal and non-verbal cues. Traditionally, we’re not supposed to verbally cue in a regular Zumba class. However, they really like for us to verbally cue at the YMCA so I make an effort to do so because I’m very by the book. I prefer to follow the rules but I do really like it when the class knows the routine well enough that I no longer have to verbally cue. The quality of the class is so much better when there are few interruptions to the music. And, verbals cues are exactly that — interruptions.

I’m going to write a separate blog post about cuing because there is so much information that I want to share with you and it’s important so I don’t want the message about cuing to get lost in this blog entry.

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Michael Thomas did a great job facilitating the workshop. He held my interest the entire time. His sexy Australian accent might have had something to do with that, though. Jokes aside, I really learned a lot.

Finally, it was time for Armando Salcedo’s master class. I picked his class over all others because his master class looked super fun on the cruise and I couldn’t get in it. Every time we went, it was already over capacity. I didn’t take any videos because I was there to take the master class. I actually didn’t take any pictures either except for this one because there’s a funny story behind it.

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These are Maritza Bustamante and Max Pizzolante. Max sings a couple of very popular Zumba hits (Shut Up and Dance, Vive Y Baila) so he is kind of a big deal. Anyway, I ended up dancing next to him in Armando Salcedo’s master class completely by accident. He looked like a regular guy — a handsome one, yes — but he didn’t dress all crazy like a famous person. He was in Zumba gear and he was standing there in his spot next to his beautiful wife Maritza, waiting for the class to start. They looked like a couple of ZINs, just like me, waiting to take the class.

So anyway, there was a spot next to him so that’s where I planted myself. It was a really good spot so I didn’t want to move. I stood there with my Zumba bag worried that if I left my really good spot, someone else would take it. So I turn to Max, not having any idea that it’s him, and I ask him to watch my spot while I put my bag up. I come back and we’re standing there waiting because we still had a few minutes (you have to get there early to get a good spot)… See this is another thing that threw me off. Celebrities don’t normally take the Zumba class with the regular folk and they’re never early. When J. Perry performed in Loretta Bates’ master class on the cruise, he was there but he didn’t take the class with us. So we’re waiting and I realize, if I’m going to really take advantage of this master class, I need to lose by ZINCON badge. I ask the nice man again to watch my spot and make sure no one takes it while I put my badge with my bag, which he graciously does.

Then, as we are getting ready to start, Armando’s like “All of these bags right here need to go” for safety reasons. I guess because they could snag the skirt that surrounds the stage or something? Or maybe they get too far out and they trip someone as we’re moving around? I don’t know. None of the other presenters have said anything about it but something must have happened to Armando before that makes him leery of having bags below the front of the stage.

I thought, “OMG. This guy is going to kill me but I need him to watch my spot AGAIN!” Max was super nice and kept people from stealing my spot for the THIRD time. Finally, we get started and we’re dancing and — this is another reason why it didn’t click right away — he was keeping up really well. He was like one of us. Maybe he got the dancing skills from his wife who is a ZIN member but that hasn’t worked for Brian so I really thought Max was just another ZIN.

I’m dancing and start to lose myself to the class because I’m focused and having a great time and having an amazing workout and then pretty soon I realize, “Wow. I have so much more space to dance.” Then, I’m like “Where did that cute couple go?” But I don’t think much about it because I thinking, “More space for me. Yass!” Now, I’m making even bigger movements and really getting into it. And, then I see the two of them — on the stage! Max is singing. His wife is dancing next to Armando. And I’m like “Whaaaat?!” That’s why they disappeared. They were getting ready to go on stage.

There you have it. That’s my story of meeting Max Pizzolante and not realizing it was him until much later. But the best part is — he watched my spot not once, not twice, but three whole times! He wasn’t a diva about it and wasn’t like, “I’m not watching your spot. Don’t you know who I am? I’m kind of a big deal!” He was really down to earth. What a super guy!

Just for that, I’m going to start doing Shut Up and Dance and Vive Y Baila in my classes so more people will get to experience his music and maybe he’ll get even more famous, not just Zumba famous. Max Pizzolante is good people and we should support good people.

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I’m going to end this post with a picture of me with Armando Salcedo and his team that we took at the end of his amazing master class. I loved every minute of it!

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Kicking Off ZINCON 2016

Posted on August 4, 2016 by under Events, Travel, Zumba.    

I recently returned from attending my third #ZINCON. (I’m not counting the Zumba Instructor Conference in 2014 because they didn’t have special hotel room keycards for the event. LOL.)

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Somehow the collector’s edition room keys make the annual convention that much more memorable. Although, the LA conference in 2014 was the very last one so that in itself is pretty special.

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We were on the same flight out as Pat and Stephanie which made the trip to Orlando go by a lot quicker. I also managed to talk Brian into shorter layovers on our connecting flights so that helped quite a bit as well. Although were on the same flight out, Pat and Stephanie flew back to Wichita on Sunday. Brian and I opted to stay an extra night (more on this later) and came home on Monday so the four of us didn’t get to travel back home together.

Our flights were pretty smooth and uneventful, unlike Andrea’s whose flight ended up getting canceled. She was supposed to arrive in Orlando by 7 PM and didn’t end up arriving until midnight. On the bright side, at least she arrived the day before and didn’t have to miss part of day one.

Brian and I were glad that we arrived by noon on Wednesday. Even though the hotel was already buzzing with ZINCON attendees, the lines weren’t too bad. I remember the long lines at the hotel check-in desk during my first ZINCON. It wasn’t unusual to have to wait almost two hours just to get checked in.

Lucky for us, I’d amassed a bunch of points by staying at Hyatt Place in Topeka over the last few months. Brian and I wanted to have enough rewards points that we wouldn’t have to wait in the long line when we arrived at ZINCON. You’d think that Brian was thrilled when my project was put “on hold” since I no longer had to be out of town so much but he was actually kind of bummed for two reasons: that meant he could no longer play video games all night and I wasn’t earning Hyatt rewards points to get us special treatment on our trip.

We checked my rewards status a few weeks before our trip and saw I had enough stays to make Platinum but not enough to make Diamond level. “Oh, well. At least we still get to skip the long line,” I told myself.

Fast forward to check in. Brian and I were actually a little bit cranky when we arrived at the hotel because our driver wasn’t waiting for us at baggage claim as we were accustomed to… When I called SuperShuttle to check on our Execucar, they were like “You didn’t give us the airline information so we didn’t know your arrival time.” I thought Brian messed up but he was quick to pull up his records and show me that he did, in fact, provide them our flight number. Somehow the airline and flight information didn’t carry over into their dispatching system so we didn’t have a specific driver assigned to us. When I called dispatch, they told me to go outside to the shuttle loading area and our ride would be there in 20 minutes. Anyway, a shared-ride van shows up and we were like, “Where’s our Execucar?!” The whole thing was all sorts of jacked up. We had a 12-passenger van all to ourselves, which seemed really silly to me. There’s only two of us. Why in the heck would we reserve a huge ass van? As absurd as the whole van situation was, I was more annoyed that we had to wait for the van to show up outside in the heat instead of our driver being ready and waiting for us at baggage claim as they have in the past.

But I digress… Brian and I kind of had the “What else could go wrong today?” mindset at check in because a few days prior we had received an email from the Hyatt Regency stating that they were oversold on Wednesday night. They were offering to put people up at the Double Tree down the street and pay for the stay and shuttle people to the hotel the next day. I think I was actually more nonchalant about it than Brian. He was super worried. Being the optimist that I am, I told him that (a) I felt sure there were other people who would take up the free night offer, (b) they’d probably kick out people who were not loyal Hyatt rewards members first before kicking a valued customer such as me to the curb, and (c) we’re arriving early enough that we should be pretty safe. Although, seeing everyone’s hotel arrival posts on Facebook did make me worry a bit because I knew that there were a steady stream of arrivals leading up to Wednesday.

So there we were in front of the concierge desk. We were tired, cranky, and apprehensive. The check in line was already quite long but not nearly as long as we’d seen it before. We definitely arrived at the right time. Wanting to take advantage of our newly earned elite status, we stood in front of the check in lanes under the “Diamond/Platinum” sign.

“I can help who’s next,” the lady at the front desk says. Brian and I step up. “Ma’am, you have to wait in line,” she tells us scoldingly while pointing to the end of the longish line. “But I’m Diamond,” I tell her indignantly like a petulant child. “In that case, I can help you,” she says completely changing her tone. I asked her if she needed my rewards number and she said she was able to look me up just fine. She told me that I’m actually Platinum in a way that made Platinum sound far more superior than Diamond level. Anyway, having been up since about 3 AM (because Brian wanted to be at the airport two hours before our flight — don’t ask, this is a constant point of contention for us), I also got confused and thought how cool it was that we made Platinum just in time for ZINCON. Brian and I actually knew I made Platinum several weeks prior but were trying to make it to Diamond. Somehow I had gotten it backwards in my mind and so did the front desk girl. She ended up giving us an upgraded room and all of the Diamond level privileges including a special amenity where we got to choose from several different beverage and food options delivered to our room on a specific day and time of our choosing.

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I didn’t really care for the beverage options so Brian chose a couple of bottles of Bud Light and we both agreed on the fruit, cheese, and nuts plate.

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The fruit and cheese plate was a great choice. It was delicious.

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Other privileges included access to the Regency Club Lounge which offers complimentary breakfast each morning, light snacks throughout the day, hors d’oeuvres from 5 to 8 PM, and desserts every night. We bought a big jug of water and a ton of groceries to sustain us during our stay. Had we known we were getting free food, bottles of water, and other beverages we would have not gotten so much at the store. I’m actually glad that we didn’t buy any fruit at the store because we got fresh fruit everyday at breakfast.

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Here’s a picture of Brian enjoying the complimentary munchies.

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Here are a few pictures of the amazing view from our room on the 26th floor.

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We had a great view of the pool area as well.

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The our corner room was exactly identical to our room back in 2013, only several floors higher which in turn made for a better view. And, since it’s all the way up above everything else, we didn’t have to shut our curtains as we did before when were on the fifth floor. We didn’t have to worry about people seeing inside our room. It was really nice. I loved falling asleep to the twinkling lights of the Orlando skyline. Andrea, Brian, and I even enjoyed watching fireworks in the distance one night when Andrea came to hang out after the fitness concert.

After settling into our fabulous room and unpacking our bags and packing our fridge and pantry, we went to get me checked in at the registration desk to get my official name tag, commemorative shirt, and convention freebies.

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I ran into my kababayan Lei Valle on my way to registration. He was getting his ACE/AFAA certifications during pre-cons.

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We also ran into this lovely lady and she encouraged me to take a photo with her giant poster.

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This one.

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This is the typical scene in front of the “We Move the World” stage in between sessions. But this isn’t even anything compared to the crowd at the fitness concert.

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Brian and I took advantage of my free time on Wednesday night to do some shopping at the Zumba Wear store. We met these two lovely ladies. They were hilarious. They changed their minds about various items in their hands a dozen times between when we first got in line up until it was time to check out.

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I’m super grateful for Doris (left) because she told me about the official ZIN bracelet which I wanted but couldn’t find. I guess she had it in her pile of stuff and changed her mind so she put it in one of the bins. When she heard me and Brian talk about the bracelet she told me I could have hers. She even went back to the bin she dropped the box off at and got it and gave it to me so then I didn’t have to step out of the super long line to go hunt for it. I thought that was a super nice thing to do for a complete stranger.

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Trust me, you do not want to step out of the line. It probably took an hour or so. The line to check out was even longer than the line to get in the store and the line to get in the store was super long. After Brian and I saw the line, we decided that Brian probably should have stood and held my place in line while I shopped. That’s the plan for next year so we can be more efficient.

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Here’s an obligatory room selfie just because.

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This is the scene at kick off. We got a really great spot toward the front, next to the ZCOM section and just behind the ten-year ZINs, thanks to my friend Charrise.

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Zumba Home Office had the best intentions but just couldn’t enforce the no bags and selfie sticks rule. My group and I followed the rules but I saw lots of bags and selfie sticks. I didn’t want to chance it though because I always seem to be the one to get caught even when everyone else is breaking the rules. I’m like the little red coupe that gets busted for speeding the one time that I do speed. And I’m thinking, “But I was just going with the flow of traffic!”

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Zumba gave us a bonus gift this year of the ultimate ZINCON experience through PixMob wristbands.

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Here’s an example to give you an idea. You’ll also see it in the Magic Moments video at the bottom.

Anyway, this post is super duper long already so I’m going to have to cut it off here. Before I go, here are some key notes from kick off:

  • Everyone at ZINCON also got a bonus gift of our very own copy of ZIN Volume 1. Of course, many of the ten-year ZINs probably have every single ZIN Volume ever created already so now they each have a second copy.
  • Zumba is launching a new app that will replace ZIN DJ (which explains why they haven’t invested in fixing any of the bugs). The new app will combine ZIN Now features with ZIN DJ features and then some. It’s going to be like ZIN DJ on crack. I can’t wait until it’s available for download so I can finally scrap ZIN DJ. Until then I guess we’re stuck with the issues.
  • Zumba is launching an official mentoring platform. They know that we mentor students and help them become fellow instructors so they’re providing tools and resources to help us help another and flourish.
  • Timbaland will be making music for STRONG by Zumba. That’s how we roll.
  • The BabyFirst network will have a Zumbini TV show, which will help drive babies and moms to Zumbini classes.

For the rest of the Zumba Instructor Convention highlights, here are the Magic Moments of ZINCON 2016…

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