Veterans: Dance with me!

Zumba, the latest exercise craze, has a top instructor: Stacy Shani.

Stacy Shani 521 (photo credit: Gloria Deutsch)
Stacy Shani 521
(photo credit: Gloria Deutsch)
Stacy Shani had always hated all forms of exercise – sports, the gym, aerobics, everything – until she discovered Zumba, the latest exercise craze that has taken the world by storm – and got so involved in it that she became a Zumba instructor.
Today she spends hours teaching it and says it’s such fun that every class is like a party, with easy steps, great music and a Latin American beat that can help a participant burn loads of calories – and actually enjoy it.
“You don’t need any special talent to do Zumba,” says the petite ex-Montrealer Shani, who looks far younger than her 46 years. “Anyone can do it.”
There’s even Zumba Gold for the oldies and Zumba with games for kids. For Shani discovering Zumba was an extra blessing as she had worked for seven years at Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream factory, in the marketing and public relations department.
“I gained 15 kilos in that time,” she says.
“The office was actually in the factory and one ate ice-cream every day.”
Today she’s slim again and loves what she does. For her, Zumba is not just a way to earn a living but a way of life – and one that helped to get back her trim figure.
She made aliya from Montreal when she was 14 with her parents, Feigie and Rubin Zimmerman, well-known philanthropists and prominent Zionists who settled in Kfar Shmaryahu in 1980.
“I hated it here,” recalls Shani. “They sent me to the American School and I cried for a whole year. Finally I made a deal with my parents; they would let me go back to Canada to finish 11th grade but I had to come back when I turned 16.”
She stayed in Montreal one more year, living with an aunt and uncle, but kept her side of the bargain and came back for the rest of her studies.
“I studied in Tel Aviv University and later Boston and got a degree in mass communication, but I couldn’t stay in the US and came back here,” she says. She got a job in 1986 in Educational Television as assistant to a producer and there she met her husband, who was working there as a director.
They married and he went on to study law.
Her next job, in Ben and Jerry’s, was fun but fatal for her figure, and she was happy to stay at home after the birth of her second child.
“I was supermom,” she says. “I was constantly with the kids doing every possible Mommy activity and taking them to every afternoon class.”
She worked out because it was the thing to do and everybody did it. She tried everything and still hated it.
She had always loved dancing and three years ago she decided to qualify as an Indance teacher. Indance puts stress on body and soul, and at the end the participants in the class have a “mini-meditation.”
Once she got into that it helped a little with the weight, but soon after she discovered Zumba, which really spoke to her.
“I was visiting family in Montreal and did a class there. It was a revelation for me and I decided I would come back and become a Zumba instructor,” she says. “I was all set to go to London or Paris to learn when I saw an ad for a Zumba training course in Ra’anana. It lasted all of two days and I took it in January 2010.”
She finally began teaching when another teacher fell sick and she was asked to substitute.
“I told them I wasn’t ready but they pushed me,” she says. “If I hadn’t done it then I might never have got into it.”
Today she teaches in community centers around the area she lives in, Ramat Aviv Gimmel. Mostly women come to her classes although there are a few brave men.
She’s very proud of having organized the first Zumbathon to raise money for breast cancer awareness.
“I wanted to put Israel on the Zumba map,” she says. “In the States a big party had been organized in aid of breast cancer and I wanted to do something similar here in conjunction with the One in Nine organization. It was held in the Heichal Hasport in Petah Tikva and I thought it would be nice if two or three hundred people turned up. We got over 700.”
For Shani it was an amazing experience.
“You could feel the electricity in the air,” she says. “To see more than 700 people all moving together and doing the steps that I was telling them to do – it was such a good feeling – probably one of the greatest moments of my life.”
The “Zumbathon in Pink” was a huge success and NIS 40,000 was raised for the One in Nine organization.