Allied Press Magazine Logo
03 magazine logo

Bringing Zumba to the masses

8 March 2022
Instructor Maria Teresa Stone dancing in a bright Zumba top

We caught up with Maria Teresa Stone, well-being ambassador and Zumba® guru. Interview Anna Wallace

Why did you become a fitness instructor?

I’m the youngest of a big Mexican family. One of my older sisters owns a gym and back in the ‘90s it was THE gym. I used to spend a lot of time there after school. As a 15-year-old I was into modern jazz, but my sister needed an instructor for what was then called aerobics and she thought I could do it. She paid for me to do a course and next thing, I’m teaching Step, Spin, a take on Tae bo (remember that?) – whatever was going!

You’ve been credited with bringing Zumba to Australasia. How did that come about?

I had trained as a Zumba instructor in Mexico and in 2008, when my Kiwi husband and I moved to New Zealand, the opportunity didn’t exist. So, I contacted Zumba Head Office about their plans for expansion and they gave their blessing for me to proceed! I reached out to gyms and leisure centres; they didn’t take up Zumba then, but they did hire me to do classes like circuits, kickboxing, and Step.

Eventually I decided I was ready to teach Kiwis Zumba, so I hired out dance studios and community halls. Then an infomercial craze around 2009 hit, and everyone wanted to be a part of it!

How many Zumba trainers have you trained and what do you love about it?

I reckon about 10,000 or so – across Australasia and the Pacific. I became so busy doing this that my husband and I moved to Sydney.

It was mind blowing to see the response from people in all these different countries. They were moving to music they couldn’t understand (the lyrics were mostly in Spanish), music they’d never heard – but they could feel it. That’s the beauty of music, it takes you places.

It was a really enriching time of my life.

Be honest – do you need rhythm or coordination to do Zumba?

Maria Teresa Stone teaching a Zumba class

No – we welcome anyone. Most instructors like to keep things easy to start with and build from there, so that people keep coming back.

The main thing is to just have a good time and let yourself go! 

Secretly, we all want to move like JLo…the more you do it, the more confident you’ll get. Plus, you’ll feel better – mentally and physically. I love what Zumba does to people in my classes – it empowers them.

It’s been 20 years since Zumba took off, how does it stay current?

With the pandemic, we had to go virtual or not do it together at all. I had to learn the technology overnight!

Now, there’s aqua Zumba and kid’s Zumba – there’s lots of spin offs. Perhaps because Zumba combines the best of both worlds – exercise and dance.

It's obvious from your online presence that you love what you do. What’s the secret?

I did a marketing degree, but I knew I wanted to work in fitness. When moving countries, exercise has been my constant. If you love what you do, you’ve found the gold in life – and it really comes across.

It’s so important to have good support around you, whether that’s mentors for business or for life. I’ve been lucky to have people who saw things in me and supported me in whatever direction I decided on, like my sister and my husband.

Why is an holistic approach so important to well-being?

My mum was quite spiritual, my sister is into exercise and my other sister, Eliza is a nutritionist. I’ve always liked the idea of setting up as a health coach on the side, especially now I have kids.

Two years ago, my mother passed away; it was a whole new level of sadness. I had to acknowledge those feelings and be kind to myself. I spent a lot of time just with me – reading a lot. I decided I needed to use this grief to fire up the next stage of my life.

I did a gut health certificate and realised if your gut isn’t happy, you’re not going to be happy and it can lead to health issues.

People want to fill a hole, to feel whole. But you’ll never find that ‘something missing’ from the outside – it’s all in you. For me, finding balance in my life helps.

Eliza and I offer an ‘18-days to well-being’ programme that brings all that knowledge together.

What’s next?

I’ve just opened an exercise membership online. People’s days are more open to exercise so I look forward to helping those who can’t or don’t want to go to the gym. I create the videos so it’s from my home to theirs.

What’s been your greatest achievement?

It was nice recognition to be inducted into the Roll of Honour by Fitness Australia in 2016, for my contribution to the fitness industry.

But on a daily level, seeing people in my classes falling in love with exercise blows my mind. That is my greatest achievement.

linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram