If you've never done Zumba or have only done a little, there are a lot of reasons to try a class by Bernice Arias-Sather:
1. She does free classes at Powderhorn Park on Mondays and Wednesdays at 6:30 which are especially fun once the weather warms up, because then they're outdoors. They're sponsored by OUT in the Backyard, an LGBTQ community outreach group.
2. Her style seems like the best of traditional Zumba: A few pop songs with a heavy Latin emphasis, a fun, fast-moving class without much verbal instruction from the leader, who favors visual cues to help people follow.
3. She has been teaching since 2007, so some of her students have become instructors who lead dances just as Bernice taught them. This is especially helpful for new students at the Midtown YWCA, where Bernice teaches on Thursdays at 6:45 pm, and the Saturday 9:45 am is usually taught by one of her students.
At Social Dance Studio (which closes at the end of the month, alas, but its Zumba instructors will continue to teach in the area), two teachers give classes at a $5 drop-in price. Jimi Jimi Jimi includes dances with a Renaissance Festival/Eastern European folk dance feel; Sadie Jelenik takes a slightly more contemporary approach.
My favorite teacher for reasons that should not reflect in any way on the excellence of Bernice, Jimi, and Sadie is Tania Mitchell, who teaches at the Midtown YWCA on Sundays and Tuesdays at 5:30. I always warn new dancers that if they find Tania challenging, they should try someone else, because Tania is the least typical: her dances feel more complex than anyone else's, she seems to bring in new dances more often than anyone else, and she may have more high-intensity dances than anyone else (though it may just feel like that because new and complex dances burn more mental energy). Tania gives more verbal instruction than the other teachers I've mentioned, probably because her dances are more complex, but she always exudes such a sense of fun that I never noticed that until I took my own instructor certification and began comparing the official Zumba advice with the ways different teachers vary from it.
Starting in June, Tania's Tuesday class will be free outside at the Farmer's Market, which should be great fun.
Tip for new dancers: Show up early to get a good spot. If you're too far in the back, it's hard to see the teacher. My favorite place is usually in the second row, slightly to one side.