HELMETTA, NJ - A lively group of Spotswood and Helmetta residents including Borough Mayor Chris Slavicek got their Saturday started with an energetic outdoor Zumba workout lead by certified instructor Tracy Salvesen. The free Zumba class was held at Helmetta's Maple Street Pavilion and included 16 participants. Thanks to the spacious pavilion, the class was able to social distance. Some like Spotswood resident Phyliss Snyder were Zumba vets while others like Helmetta residents Maria Karczewski and Rosanne Hologounis were new to the fitness program. Helmetta resident Alecia Joy Bloom executed the dance-inspired workout like a pro. Bloom said afterwards that she's been dancing since the age of three and enjoyed the choreographed steps and uptempo music that reminded her of a dance club.

"This was my first time," Hologounis said after the workout. "I didn't know what to expect and I loved it."

Part of the lure of the Zumba session was being outdoors. Spotswood residents Jill Thaisz, Erika Levy and Jill Lubin thought being outside among friends especially after the long coronavirus stay-at-home was a welcome change.

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Salvesen has been a certified group fitness instructor for the past 20 years. She began teaching Zumba in 2009. Salvesen reached out to Mayor Slavicek about hosting a Zumba class at the Maple Street Pavilion once New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy allowed outdoor gatherings of 25. Throughout the stay-at-home, Salvesen has continued to teach her Zumba classes virtually through Zoom.

"I absolutely think that being able to bring Zumba into peoples houses while being stuck at home has been a blessing for people to get up and move," Salvesen said. "My evening classes for the South Brunswick Community Education were moved to at home when the schools closed."

"I know how important fitness is and staying healthy and I volunteered to continue my classes from my home for the township so that the residents would not get charged," Salvesen said.

In addition to the South Brunswick Community Education program, Salvesen also teaches a Zumba Gold toning class for active adults and seniors at the Old Bridge YMCA. She was furloughed during the coronavirus stay-at-home, but continues to offer free virtual workouts to her Zumba faithful.

"They tune into my virtual classes every day," Salvesen said. "I have been teaching virtually since March. The seniors look forward to moving. I cannot stress how important it is and was at these difficult times to see peoples faces and let them know that they are not alone, and they can meet me every night at 7p.m. to dance."

"We talk after class on Zoom. We laugh," Salvesen added. "That is what Zumba is all about. It's a family and brings people together from everywhere through fitness and music."

Saturday's Zumba participants certainly responded to the beat of the music and the enthusiasm of fellow class goers. For Salvesen, it was exciting to lead a Zumba class in person after months online.

"I do miss the physical interaction of being in a live class," Salvesen said. "There is nothing like teaching live."

The free Zumba workout was such a hit that when the hour long class was over, participants were asking Mayor Slavicek to make Zumba on Saturday mornings at the Maple Street Pavilion a weekly occurrence.

"It was a great turnout, and we look forward to more programs as such," Mayor Slavicek said. "Fitness is so important, especially during times as such, and we want to promote a healthy lifestyle in Helmetta."