Student Journeys @ Z Club NY – Here We Go Again To Haiti!

By December 6, 2014blog

In November 2014, Z Club NY returned to its Caribbean second home with a bus-load full of eager Zumba® lovers and world explorers from NYC.   With careful planning and seamless execution, Edmee put together another trip that blended the thrill and benefits of Zumba with a spectacular backdrop and inspiring culture. Edmee partnered with instructors Irena Meletiou and Diego Chauca – and wow did this team sizzle!  The four-day retreat included two Zumba Master Classes, Aqua Zumba in the ocean, Early Morning Water Workouts,and Zumba Step. Club Indigo, a newly renovated hotel that provided cozy accommodation, delicious food and entertainment, and facilitated support for the classes, graciously and delightfully hosted us. For the first time, Z Club NY also partnered with New York-based  organization, The “I Am” Project and Haiti-based organization, Prodev Haiti to bring Zumba® + “I Am” – a combination of Zumba® and mindfulness practices to local school students.   – by Yali Szulanski for Z Club NY.



What’s a retreat in Haiti without getting to know some Haitian culture?  Upon our arrival, we visited Croix Des Bouquets, an artists village near the capital of Haiti. Haiti is world famous for its exuberant art, richly influenced by nature, history and religion, both Christian and Vodou. The entire village of Croix des Bouquets is a good example of Haitian creativity – it resonates with the sounds of clanging and banging of the mallets and chisels in the process of transforming raw metal into stunning, and often haunting, iron sculptures. Here, we were able to meet local artists, learn about Vodou and spiritual practices, and take a little bit of Haiti home with us.

“The art was impressive and it was great to get a taste of the true Haiti and chat with locals before going to the resort.” – Grey O. 

At Z Club NY, we love to challenge our students to reach the heights of their potential, and to climb beyond the peaks of what they thought was possible. Our retreats are no different! On the second day, wIMG_2308e geared up for an intensive hike up steep hills  to visit the historic Forts of Dessalines. These forts once defended the city both during and after the slave rebellion. They guaranteed the safety and security of the old imperial city, and were also  once homes of famous figures in the history of Haiti. Modern Dessalines is a thriving town that commemorates the revolution.

We certainly learned what we were made of during this hike – our crew braved some steep climbs, hot temperatures, and we all learned the great value of teamwork and cooperation. Our Gold-est participant, Virginia Arnold, was our hero during this excursion – at the age of 62 she completed the full 4 hour hike with a big smile on her face.


At the top of the mountain, we celebrated our time together and explored the historical site. We discovered some fascinating wildlife, as well as were truly impressed by the stability and endurance of the monuments.

“it was such an amazing experience!!! It brought us all closer, tested our strength and limits and really allowed me to challenge myself!!!” – Kelly P. 

“The mountain climb excursion was a great challenge-  that didn’t make it any less of a victory for me. It was exciting to push myself and my body, and to see how far I could go.” – Grey O. 

We also got the chance to explore the town of Dessalines and to enjoy a delectable meal of local cuisine.

“Seeing Marchand-Dessalines was good. The meal there was great.” – Kate D. 

“As for Marchand Dessalines, I love history, and being able to explore the town gave me a taste of that.” – Jasmine R. 


IMG_2015It wouldn’t be a Z Club NY retreat without Zumba®, Zumba®, and more Zumba®! We started off each morning bright and early with water-workouts in the pool taught to us by Edmee Cherdieu D’Alexis and one special water class taught by Yali Szulanski with an infusion of meditation and mindful movements to release tension from the body. We were fortunate enough to have Z Club NY master instructors Irena Meletiou and Diego Chauca with us along for the trip. Not  only are they both currently working closely with Zumba Fitness as as ZES™ and ZJ™, respectively, they also bring an individual fire that energized us for each new class. Diego treated us all to his unique expression of Cumbia and DanceHall styles, many of which he’d inspired from the most recent Zumba® convention. Along with her powerful and motivating style during regular Zumba® classes, Irena treated us to a fierce Zumba® Step class that challenged us all to reach a higher level of strength and endurance. The team filled the classes – and the days- with so much passion and energy!



“I loved the classes!” – Jasmine R. 

“Each class was amazing!!!” – Kelly P. 

“Having only done Aqua Zumba before I loved the variety of classes and styles offered by all the instructors. I got to try a little bit of everything and was always enjoying myself and being challenged. I adored the early morning workouts with Edmee- it was like a refreshing breakfast bootcamp! The morning water workout with Yali was special to me as it incorporated mind and meditation which I found healing. After a few days of focus being put on the physical body it was nurturing to turn inward.” – Grey O. 

Beach Bum


When we first arrived at Club Indigo, we were welcomed with local refreshments and were able to enjoy the hotel’s amenities so that we could be fresh-faced and energized for the morning’s workouts. Throughout our stay, we were treated to ample beach time, delicious meals, and refreshIMG_2459ing local drinks. Each meal, included in the retreat package, was a tantalizing sample of local cuisine featuring local fruits, vegetables, and delicious Haitian and Creole dishes.  We were treated to nightly dinners and even a barbecue on the beach with a very special performance by J.Perry and Akoustik. Click here to see the band play live in Haiti!.

“The meals and hotel amenities were great.” – Kate D. 

” I thought it was beautiful, relaxing and had a variety of things to do. I loved the beach and the pool, and for the Beach Bum retreat, that’s really all I wanted and hoped for! :) The meals were perfect and there were all sorts of options.” – Grey O. 

Zumba® + “I Am” @ Z Club NY

zumba iammIn a very special collaboration, Z Club NY was able to donate three Zumba® classes to school students  in Haiti. Zumba® instructors Irena Meletiou and Edmee Cherdieu D’Alexis joined Yali Szulanski’s The “I Am” Project to teach the kids. It was incredible to see how much the kids loved the music, the movements, and the freedom to let go. We are very grateful to Prodev Haiti  and president Maryse Penette – Kedar for her generosity in spirit and time to allow us this opportunity to work with the students. Check out this video to watch clips of the classes at the school!








What was your favorite moment of the retreat?

“Dancing in the water and on lanIMG_2010d…laughing with the group after meals…talking to Edmee, Joe, Cyril and Cassie about Haitian history and culture.” – Kate D. 

“There was not just one moment but many. The exercise classes, meeting new people, food was excellent, the beach party & concert, sun, sand & water.” – Jasmine R. 

“Completing the mountain hike!” – Irena M. 

“My favorite moment was getting to spend time with other participants in new and special ways. In early morning classes, the excursions, etc.” – Kelly P. 

“The last Aqua Zumba class in the ocean. There were a lot of locals and people who weren’t a part of our group that joined. Edmee had us all hold hands and make a circle that contained all that energy into a perfect moment. She finished it with stretches on the shore. Completely beautiful and healing.” – Grey O. 

Would you encourage others to go on a future Z Club NY retreat? Why or why not?

A Very big, and unanimous YES!!


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