Culture: The Zumba Uprising
For certain members of the tony Sports Club/LA, a fitness instructor is the new cause célèbre.
Much of the passion at SCLA was simply due to Malzone. Though she’s not the only Zumba instructor at the club, she’s far and away the favorite. Her classes are regarded as intense, but also likened to “big sweaty dance parties with all your friends.” And over time, a group of members got downright religious about attending her thrice-weekly sessions. Indeed, Malzone’s followers have a simple way of describing their devotion. “It’s like a cult,” admits Korcak.
Yet it is also clear that the brouhaha was as much about the students as the teacher. SCLA calls itself “the finest sports and fitness complex in the world,” a designation that tends to attract a certain set: successful, socially connected, type-A go-getters — people accustomed to wielding influence on and off the treadmill. By luck or design, Malzone happened to teach the sort of people accustomed to getting what they want in life — and what they wanted was to get their Zumba instructor back.
IT SOON BECAME CLEAR THAT THE folks who run SCLA were caught completely off-guard by Malzone’s announcement — or rather, by the reaction to the announcement. To try to quell the unrest, McEachern scheduled a meeting with members on Monday, February 8, four days after the news became public. Yet the promise of a meeting failed to assuage members’ ire. Within hours of Malzone’s announcement, 34 had already signed a “Petition to Reinstate Alexa Malzone,” in which they threatened to cancel their memberships. Over the next couple days, 30 more added their names. A few industrious folks even phoned Equinox, a competing sports club, to tip them off about Malzone.
Korcak was among the most disappointed by the instructor’s impending departure, and she scheduled a private meeting with McEachern to see what could be done. “I looked her in the eye and said ‘Kristin, I’ve been coming here for two years, and I know she doesn’t want to leave.’”
When Korcak didn’t get the answers she wanted, she took her complaint up the food chain: She e-mailed Smaiyra Million, the chief operating officer of SCLA’s parent company, Millennium Partners Sports Club Management.
After members learned Million would attend the big meeting, they convened a series of planning sessions, including the one at Café 47 on Super Bowl Sunday. “The only reason I wasn’t going to quit Sports Club is because of her classes,” says Courteney Mitchell, another one of the die-hards. “I know a lot of people feel the same way, so we all sat down and started going over talking points. We were trying to brainstorm ways we could stay calm and collected when we met with the COO…. I said, ‘I’m going to go home and put this in a PowerPoint.’”