● By Robert Frey
The Cajun Calorie BurnerBy Lisa Hanchey
Louisiana’s Hottest New Dance Workout is ZydeFit, combining the spiciest dance moves of contemporary Zydeco with some hip-hop, R&B and soul. Launched to the public on March 24, 2018, ZydeFit offers a full body workout designed to tone muscle, increase cardiovascular endurance and improve coordination – all while having fun!
Created by Lafayette native Moriah Istre, ZydeFit was born while she was studying at Arkansas State University. Both Moriah and her sister, Elista Istre, were earning their doctorates in Heritage Studies. Back at home, both were Cajun and Zydeco dance instructors. Elista taught lessons at Vermilionville, where she served as Program Director, while Moriah continues to teach dance lessons professionally.
While in Arkansas, the sisters took a variety of dance classes offered at the gym – Zumba, hip-hop and boot camp. But, Moriah missed the music from her home state. “I was really missing home, because I was used to going out every night, and you couldn’t even go on the weekends,” Moriah recalls. “And I thought, at least if we had Zydeco for an hour of dance style fitness, that would be fun and kind of help to make it not feel so lonesome up there. And Elista said, ‘Well, you ought to do it! You ought to just start working on it.’ And I thought, ‘hmm, maybe I should.’”
After Moriah finished her doctorate and the documentary film, “First Cousins: Cajun and Creole Music in South Louisiana” with Elista, she started focusing on ZydeFit. About a year and a half ago, Moriah put together a group of athletes (Moriah was a former UL women’s softball team member), personal trainers and dancers, and invited them to try out her new idea. The group met a couple of times a week, during which Moriah choreographed a workout routine and trained the team. She created a workout based on traditional Zydeco dance moves and taught it to the group, who practiced it over the next nine months. Once the ZydeFit routine was fine-tuned, the team shot a DVD, which is now available for purchase. The workout video features music by Cupid, J. Paul Jr., Brian Jack, Tank Delafosse, Chris Ardoin and Tucka, the King of Swing.
At ZydeFit, each song features a different style of Zydeco dancing set to foundational Zydeco steps and focuses on a target muscle group. For example, one song might focus on triceps and calves, while another will work on shoulders, hands, and the next will target thighs and glutes. “The footwork coordinates with Zydeco dance moves, but you get a full body workout,” Elista explains. “It coincides with the music, so if you like Zydeco, you are going to love this. Because, you’re going to get fit, you’re going to get healthy, you’re going to get your blood pumping, and you’re going to work all the different muscle groups. Plus, you are doing it to music from Louisiana, which is something great.”
What makes ZydeFit different from your traditional Zydeco dancing is the type of music and the variety of dancing styles. “Something very unique about ZydeFit is that it’s not old-school Zydeco,” Moriah explains. “It’s actually a lot of the Zydeco that is influenced by hip hop, so it’s got a very modern edge and sound to it. And the dance moves reflect that as well. This isn’t traditional Zydeco dancing – it’s just a lot of fun. But we still have a lot of the turns and even the drops that go on with the hip hop and Zydeco culture.”
But if you’re a fitness newbie, don’t sweat it. ZydeFit offers a level one class for beginners and a level two class for advanced exercisers. “It’s a lot of cardio and a lot of choreography, but it’s also a challenge,” Moriah says. “So, if you’re used to doing CrossFit and weight training, and you’re kind of stiff and not very flexible, this is definitely going to break open some areas that you are probably not used to working. And for those of you who aren’t used to working out at all, but love Zydeco dancing, this is going to be a great launching pad into the world of fitness. I’m excited to see that it’s going to attract people who would not otherwise be attracted to working out.”
The hour-long ZydeFit class consists of an icebreaker, five-minute warm up with stretching, 45-minute workout and cool-down. At the end, participants discuss their goals for the week. Workouts will be streaming so that you can do them from anywhere.
Currently, Elista is working on getting certified as a ZydeFit instructor (which will have to wait until after the launch of her book, “Creoles of Louisiana: Three Centuries Strong,” published by University of Louisiana Press). But, even before ZydeFit went online, fitness instructors from Acadiana and beyond started contacting Moriah about becoming certified in ZydeFit. “I believe that ZydeFit could have a global appeal, and I’m ready for that,” Moriah says. “There are so many people from around the world who are interested in Zydeco. There are even Zydeco cruises.”
On March 24, ZydeFit held a World Launch & Health Fair at the Robicheaux Recreation Center. The event offered live ZydeFit workouts, music, food, a Meet-n-Greet of the ZydeFit Team and Zydeco musicians, giveaways and ZydeFit DVDs and gear.
Beginning April 2, 2018, ZydeFit will be held Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings at 7 p.m. at the Robicheaux Center located at 1919 Eraste Landry Road in Lafayette. Rates are $15 per class, $50 for a monthly membership (10+ classes) and $250 for a six-month membership (one free month, 60+ classes and a free t-shirt). For more information, call 337-427-3547, or visit www.moriahistre.com or www.zydefit.com. You can also follow ZydeFit on Facebook and Instagram. So, join this Louisiana Dance Party for a Combination of Fitness and Fun!