By Maria Roman
Photos By Liz Szebenyik
On March 22, Nina Merlonghi held her third annual Zumba Carnaval at Punchthesky Fitness in Fairfield, CT. Nina, a native of Rio de Janeiro, invited me to check out the event, which she hosts once a year at the business she owns, held in honor of the biggest party in the world known as Carnaval, celebrated in Brazil in the month of February. She wanted to share that experience through Zumba – she definitely delivered.
As I walked in, vibrant colors and shimmering decorations, with attendees dressed in costumes, some wearing images of the Brazilian flag and masks, gave me a sense of the excitement of the streets in Brazil. The Zumba playlist consisted of Brazilian, Latin and Caribbean music. Smiles and happy chanting filled the room. Halfway through the event, the “Sambistas,” professional samba dancers in carnival costumes adorned with feathers and beadwork, came on stage and performed.
“Carnaval is different from a Zumba event. Bringing Brazil to the United States, it’s really fun. It’s remarkable to see that culture come to life. It’s not every day you get to see people come together through dance,” said Christina Forgione of Shelton.
The ninety-minute, high-energy Zumba session was led by several instructors from Brazil and other countries, such as Columbia, Puerto Rico and Jamaica. “I wanted everyone to experience a different vibe,” said Nina, adding, “Zumba is a mix of culture and personality.” One of the instructors, Constantino Cossio, an immigrant from Medellin, Colombia, said this was his second Carnaval with Nina and he enjoys participating because it reminds him of the Carnaval de Barranquilla in Columbia.
Margo Bivens, another long time member, said that she travels over 30 miles from West Haven to attend Nina’s classes at Punchthesky, “That’s not something I can put a price or miles on. It’s priceless.”
Nina says her classes are for everyone regardless of their background. “I was able through Zumba and Carnaval to show my culture to everyone who attended, and give them a little piece of Brazil of their own,” she said.
Nina also does fundraisers through her Zumba classes for different causes. Her most recent was for the youth group at Emanuel Church in Bridgeport. If you’d like to learn more about Nina’s fitness classes, call 203-650-5524.