LYNDHURST, N.J. — It's a longstanding cliche that one ought to make lemonade when life hands you lemons. A Lyndhurst mother and daughter have not only made lemonade, they've made a healthy one – one they share widely.
Natalia Novoa has always been close to her mom, Mercedes. Best friends, even. And they've leveraged that closeness to teach Zumba Fitness in Lyndhurst and South Hackensack.
"We work so well together and respect each other's opinions, and I think the mixture is what makes us so unique and a niche in the world of Zumba Fitness."
Their closeness was also spurred by misfortune: Natalia's dad was taken by a rare cancer when she was only 15.
Natalia first got licensed to teach Zumba back in 2011, but her corporate job left her exhausted and was sucking the life out of her.
A less than obvious blessing came in a round of layoffs.
The same day she lost her job, she got a flyer for the gym in the mail, and she talked her mom into going with her. She recalling going to the gym for a boxing lesson, wanting to let off some steam.
Once there, Mercedes noticed what seemed to be a "fun room," with music and people laughing, and she headed there instead.
Natalia followed, and the pair hasn't looked back since.
I started dancing and moving and could not help but smile. I looked over to my mom and she was smiling too. It was an amazing feeling but an unfamiliar one. Happiness?
The very next morning, Mercedes asked, smiling, "So, when are we going back to the gym?" And "these were words that I thought I would never hear leave her mouth in that sequence," Natalia said.
She and her mom started taking two classes a week, then more. The activity also gave Mercedes a break from the intensive caretaking she provided to her mom.
When Natalia's grandmother passed, her mother was growing depressed, and Natalia hatched a plan.
'That is it Mom; we are getting you licensed to teach Zumba. I need you to help me teach.' She found the thought of that hilarious, and it was refreshing just to see her laugh at that time.
Mercedes initially hung out in the back of the room, until she got confident enough to join her daughter in the "instructor row."
"We wanted to spread this organic happiness and profound feeling of fulfillment on a mind, body and spirit level," Natalia said. "We quickly began adding more classes as our passion shone ... and the word spread about us."
They now regularly teach four days a week. You can watch a clip of one session here.
- Monday, 6:30-7:30 p.m. – Powerhouse Gym in South Hackensack, 60 Saddle River Ave.
- Tuesday, 7-8 p.m. – Lyndhurst Volunteer Emergency Squad, 297 Delafield Ave.
- Thursday, 7-8 p.m. – Lyndhurst Volunteer Emergency Squad, 297 Delafield Ave.
- Friday, 7-8 p.m. – Lyndhurst Volunteer Emergency Squad, 297 Delafield Ave.
Walk-ins are welcome at all of these sessions, and there's no commitment. The cost is $10 per session at Powerhouse Gym and $5 a session in Lyndhurst.
The pair also plans on adding classes for seniors and kids with autism. Natalia said they also do fundraising Zumbathons for charities and people in need.
They also have an Etsy shop, with items they've tested and customized workout swag – and even their own line of leggings and sportswear, called Booty Leggings, "that embraces the woman's curves and body and makes us feel confident and sexy while dancing in a safe space."
Booty Leggings are also made in the U.S.
Their classes are for people of all fitness levels and experience, Natalia explained. And their students range from teens to seniors – which she thinks addresses yet another problem: too much separation between the generations.
"Everyone is there for a different reason but when we are in that room we are all one and the same. There is no size, age, color or any sort of separation. We are a Zumba family, and we are all there to encourage and empower each other to be better than we individually were yesterday."
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.