Zumba teacher gets people moving

Mar. 30, 2013 @ 07:13 PM

This story is about a woman who started moving and turned it into a movement.

Plenty of folks lose weight but gain it right back - and then some.

Erica Dixon kept the pounds off, and what she added to her plate was something she never had in mind.

Fitness, particularly the craze that is Zumba, has taken Dixon as far as Hawaii, and she recently was in the Queen City’s Time Warner Cable Arena leading a routine she choreographed for halftime of a Charlotte Bobcats game.

That was the second time Dixon boogied with the Bobcats, and she brought 54 people from Durham who either got their groove on with her or just came to show some love to a lady who's got moves like Jagger or Jackson – that would be Mick and Michael – or anybody else known for their gyrations.

Dixon doing halftime for the lowly Bobcats isn't exactly Beyoncé getting invited to perform at the Super Bowl.

"Definitely on a smaller scale," Dixon said.

But it's still saying something.

"It's big to be asked to do it," Dixon said. She designed the dance steps and selected the music for the halftime show. "It's, like, an honor to be asked to do it."

Dixon’s got skills. She said she is one of only roughly 200 Zumba Jammers in the world. A ZJ is a choreographer, a role for which Dixon had to audition. She made the cut, joining just a handful of black ZJs, Dixon said.

"You just have to be on top of it," Dixon said. "You just have to be good."

“What makes Erica Dixon so great is because she is dedicated, hardworking and loves what she does, and it shows,” said Durham’s Ema Temu, who attends the Zumba classes that Dixon teaches around here. “Erica’s Zumba class is like no other.”

Keep up with Dixon – if you can – at e-fit4life.com.

“I truly admire how hard she works to ensure that you are getting the best workout with the best music,” Temu said. “It is almost like you are in a club atmosphere. I have also developed some amazing friendships, as well.”

Dixon, who has a master’s degree in parks and recreation management from N.C. Central University and is the school’s director of campus recreation and wellness, has been teaching the popular Latin-inspired Zumba classes since 2008. She’s been involved in all sorts of fitness genres, but she said Zumba is the one form of exercise that she doesn’t have to beg folks to do.

"They naturally want to do it,” Dixon said. “It's so fun that they don't even think they're exercising."

The way guys wear the super-long shorts for basketball or how they are up on all of the latest golf gear mirrors how women embrace the carefully cut-up shirts and loud attire and whatnot for Zumba, Dixon said.

“It’s a lifestyle,” Dixon said.

All of this started for Dixon, 37, back in 1995, when she began walking around the track at NCCU. She was a size 18 and didn’t like the way she looked. So Dixon walked, and she burned more calories marching up and down the steps near the track.

Never mind that Dixon pulled a fast one to avoid taking a high school fitness test that required her to run a mile.

"I faked an asthma attack,” Dixon admitted with a chuckle.

Her goal in the summer of 1995 was to finally run that mile, which she did, along with dropping down to a size 12.

Dixon grew up in Washington, D.C., where she was one of those double-dutch queens, and she drew upon that experience to incorporate the jump room into her health program, which included taking her own salad dressing to NCCU’s cafeteria in order to make sure she wasn’t putting anything in her body that would contradict her new curves.

And here’s how serious Dixon was about getting fit: The woman, still a college student at the time, showed up at a gym and told the person in charge that she couldn’t afford a membership but was willing to do just about anything in order to earn access to the equipment.

The guy running the gym told her that if she’d put in three hours a week cleaning the treadmills, then she could come workout anytime she wanted to.

Well, Dixon got to spraying and wiping, and the pounds kept coming off.