THE Saturday Night Fever classic, You Should Be Dancing booms out and instantly the rooms bursts into life.
“To the left,” comes the instruction from the front. “To the right . . follow me and keep smiling.”
Dance teacher Peter Coenen, clad in high visibility turquoise begins the high octane routine and each of his carefully orchestrated moves is copied by the rows of devotees.
This is no ordinary exercise or dance class, This is Zumba - and it’s clear the masses can’t get enough of it.
Almost a dozen sessions run each week at Halifax’s The Dance Mill in Holmfield, and still owner, Peter is struggling to meet demand.
Since he launched them, word has spread and he now has up to 100 Zumba fans a night wanting to learn how to shake their booty to the Latino beat.
“The response has been phenomenal,” he says.
“Everybody seems to love Zumba. The phone doesn’t stop with people wanting to make bookings for classes. I think it’s because it offers something for everyone - everyone can do it.
“People who wouldn’t normally go to the gym can have a great work out but have a lot more fun while they’re getting fit. It’s just so entertaining. You just have to look around a class to see everybody smiling and having a good time. It really is like one big party.”
The dance craze began with Colombian fitness guru Beto Perez. The story goes that he turned up to deliver an aerobics class one day, discovered there was no music, nipped out to his car to retrieve what he was listening to - a bit of salsa, a bit of marengo - and hey presto, the free-style moves of Zumba were born.
“I think that’s why it’s such a lot of fun because it does mix up all kinds of music and dance. I sometimes throw in a bit of country and western just to shake things up a bit, a not of calypso and even a bit of bhangra,” says Peter, one of only a handful of trained Zumba teachers in the north.
Consisting of cardio exercises mixed up with Latin American and urban dance moves, such as a salsa shimmy or cha cha steps, Zumba is the perfect way to get fit, he adds - he himself has lost two stones since he introduced the classes, and as well as running them at The Dance School, he is also taking them out to the community, to local schools and church halls.
With dance steps taken from South American classics like Samba and Paso Doble, as well as quirkier genres such as reggae and the polka, it’s easy to see why Zumba is attracting its fair share of celebrity followers too - including Emma Watson, Jennifer Lopez and Natalie Portman.
Janine Humprhrey began classes at The Dance Mill last October and admits she is hooked.
“It all began when I started bringing my little girl to ballet. Someone mentioned Zumba and because I had always enjoyed exercise and aerobics I thought I’d give it a try. Now I come three times a week - sometimes four if I can manage - and I can’t believe how much fitter I feel. It’s such a laugh too, so much fun.”
Jenny Tepielow is another devotee.
“I heard about it from my sister,” she says.
“I’ve always done aerobics and I enjoy the gym but this is terrific for just enjoying yourself. You don’t realise how hard you are working because everyone seems to be having a laugh and a good time. I’d recommend it to anyone.”
The Dance Mill now has a clutch of around 250 regulars with new faces turning up to class at the time - as a result, pre-booking is recommended.
“What we’d like to see now is a few chaps,” says Peter.
“Zumba isn’t just only for the ladies. It’s for the men as well. It really can help you get fit - I should know, I’m teaching 10 class a week and the weight has just dropped off.”
* For more information about The Dance Mill classes, ring 01422 248000 or visit thedancemill.co.uk and follow the Zumba link.