Hot dance in the pool

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Young Vietnamese-Bulgarian gym freak brings Aqua Zumba to Hanoi

  Donika Do Tinh, 23, does a Zumba routine for her students to perform in the pool

Doing exercises without sweating or feeling tired, yet burning a large amount of calories? Sounds hard to believe? But that is just what Donika Do Tinh helped many people in Hanoi do.

She brought Aqua Zumba, a kind of Colombian dance fitness program in water, to the capital last October when she came to visit her Vietnamese father. She had just completed graduation in social and labor psychology at the Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia.

But her love for the gym and the inspiration she got from watching people exercise on Hanoi's streets persuaded her to stay longer, she told news website VnExpress.

Zumba, found in 2001, fuses several Latin dances and elements of aerobics.

But the fun aspect increases exponentially when salsa, samba, belly dance, and hip hop meet water.

The 23-year-old Vietnamese-Bulgarian taught at the famous Apsara Studio Nghi Tam, at its second venue at Hanoi Academy, D45 D46 Nam Thang Long Urban Area, Ciputra Phu Thuong, Tay Ho District. Teaching Zumba requires a license, and Donika has been internationally qualified since last year, after joining first Zumba class in 2008.

She performs on the ground and the learners follow in the swimming pool, standing in chest-high water, meaning even people who cannot swim can try it out.

Donika Do Tinh is one of the few, if not the only, licensed teachers of Aqua Zumba in Hanoi
Zumba can be combined with weights or chairs, but her learners say the aqua variety is probably the best for the tropical city.

Most students at the class are first timers.

"I was so surprised," Christine, a 32-year-old from Singapore, says.

"I had never imagined I would do something other than swimming in the pool."

She says Donika is a devoted teacher who carefully observes everyone's moves underwater and advises each individually to ensure no one sustains any injury.

Van Anh, a trainee, says: "The only problem is you have to dance against the water pressure. But I was able to catch up with the music after two or three classes."

A one-hour class of Aqua Zumba can burn 500 to 1,000 calories, sometimes without their knowing it since it does not feel exhausting, Donika says.

Anh says her body became firmer after eight classes, while Christine has shed one kilogram.

Donika says the benefits felt by the learners and their happiness has kept her going.

She told VnExpress that there were many times when she did not feel happy. But once she went into the class and saw those people coming just for her and to learn Zumba, "I was happy again."

The class is now close as it's cold in Hanoi and will resume next April, the fitness center informed.

But VnExpress said it's more than the class that has kept Donika happy in Vietnam.

She not only loves her class, but also everyone exercising on city streets.

She frequented Sword Lake and Lenin Park not for their fresh air, street foods, or greenery, but just to watch people doing exercises.

For her the city sidewalks are full of energy, with people playing badminton, football, and basketball and doing aerobics.

"I like watching them."

It is uniquely Vietnamese that strangers happily play sports and do exercises together on the streets, she says. "It's hardly seen in Europe."

Some of the exercises looked odd but still inspired her, she says.

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