Monday evening, women of all ages walked into High Steppin’ Dance Academy wearing workout clothes and smiles, ready to work off the stress of the day.
“The energy Richard Marchetti brings to our studio is phenomenal,” said Jo-Ann Fontaine, who owns High Steppin’ at both 1428 Hartford Avenue and 590 Killingly Street in Johnston. “You won’t believe what will go on here.”
Just before 7 p.m., 50 women filed into the spacious room and staked claim to a spot on the dance floor. Marchetti flipped a switch, pumping high-energy Latin music through the sound system and yelled out to his students, “Are you ready?”
For the next hour, music was blaring and bodies were moving.
“This is certainly not your average exercise class,” Fontaine said. “What this man does with this class is absolutely incredible.”
Wendy Barone feels more energized when she leaves the class then when she arrives at the studio. With her husband Michael Barone and business partner Steven Catanzaro, Wendy Barone owns Ciara Restaurant in Johnston. Marchetti’s Zumba class is a chance for her to take some time for herself.
“Every eye turns to Richard; honestly, he is like a God to us. His class is so energetic that everyone feels a sense of empowerment. That’s the way he makes us feel,” she said.
By day, Marchetti is the music department coordinator for kindergarten through grade 12 in the West Warwick School Department, and directs all plays. By night, he is a Zumba instructor and a live entertainer for his students.
“It’s amazing how these women love this man. It’s really a great show as we follow his dance moves doing Zumba,” Wendy said.
Zumba is a Latin-inspired dance workout that has become increasingly popular over the past two years.
“You don’t realize you’re working out,” Marchetti said. “It’s dancing to Latin music. Follow the instructor and you don’t realize you’re burning so many calories when you do it. But you are. It’s unbelievable.”
Marchetti says that in his hour-long class, students lose between 500 and 1,000 calories, with an average of 750 calories lost.
“I have a girl in there now who has lost 35 pounds. It’s unbelievable how the weight just falls off when you get into it. The bottom line is that it’s fun,” he said.
What’s more, participants pay only $3 per class.
Marchetti, who grew up in Johnston and graduated from Johnston High School with the Class of 2000, used to work out on a treadmill and it seemed his class was three hours long. Now, by way of his Zumba workouts, he says the time just flies by.
“I took a Zumba class last summer,” said Marchetti, who graduated from URI and has been in the West Warwick system for nine years. “I really got into it.”
So much so, in fact, one of Marchetti’s friends suggested that he teach Zumba.
Enter Fontaine, who has been friends with Marchetti for years.
“I said to Richard one day that I need a Zumba fitness teacher,” Fontaine said. “The next thing you know he’s on board and we had to turn people away.”
The reputation that Marchetti quickly developed resulted in 73 people coming in for one class. That’s when Fontaine said she had to limit the size of each class to just 50 people, most of whom are women.
Machetti’s classes are held Monday and Wednesday evenings at 7 and Saturdays at 9 a.m. Some classes, Fontaine explained, only have 25 people. For enrollment and more information, call 454-7837 or 413-4693.
“People can pop in whenever they want,” Marchetti said. “As the Zumba slogan says: ditch the workout and join the party.”