Woman with Down syndrome becomes zumba instructor

Woman with Down syndrome becomes zumba instructor
Clari Lehmkuhl

Dubai - Dedication came a long way as Lehmukhl was first introduced to Zumba about three years ago - since then, she has practised the dance workout for six hours a day


Sherouk Zakaria

Published: Wed 5 Jul 2017, 10:54 PM

Last updated: Thu 6 Jul 2017, 8:21 PM

One extra chromosome did not stop Clari Lehmkuhl from achieving her dream of becoming a Zumba instructor.
The 26-year-old South African has become the UAE's first certified Zumba instructor with Down Syndrome, and is preparing for her first free public class taking place on Saturday.
"I like dancing a lot because it makes me fit. For the upcoming class, I have already picked the most energetic songs on my list and tailored the class for beginners and professionals alike," said Lehmkuhl, a UAE resident for the past 10 years.
Dedication came a long way as Lehmukhl was first introduced to Zumba about three years ago. She had read about Yulissa Arescurenaga, the first woman with Down Syndrome to become a Zumba instructor in America. Since then, Lehmkuhl has been practising the dance workout for six hours a day to achieve the same.
"I practise on my mother's laptop daily. I tried dancing hip hop once, but I felt more connected to Zumba that allows you more flexible body movements," said Lehmkuhl, who spends her mornings working as an administrative trainer at Sedra Foundation for Inclusion since last October, and dedicates her afternoons to practising Zumba.
To get the international licence, Lehmukhl had to go through an instructor training where she had to follow two choreographies that she successfully passed back in May.
"My parents have been my main supporters through the journey, and sports have been part of my life. Besides dancing Zumba, I also play tennis with my dad once a week," said Lehmkuhl.
She noted that she aims to make a living out of being a professional Zumba instructor.
While Lehmukhl joined mainstream schools in South Africa and Oman, she said her parents have taught her independent, self-assessment and time management from a young age. "I hope that my first public class will remind people that we shouldn't be defined by our disabilities. I am a Zumba instructor, tennis player and a daughter before being someone with Down Syndrome," said Lehmkuhl.
Inclusion starts from home
Renate Baur-Richter, programme manager at Sedra Foundation that is sponsoring the class, said the challenge facing people of determination is preparing them for jobs that won't exist in the coming years.
"We are faced now with a new challenge. We don't want to train them to merely become assistants or receptionists as these jobs are threatened to disappear in the future. We want to teach them skills that they can implement and make a living through," said Baur-Richter.
Therefore, she added, parents must train people of determination to take up responsibilities and become independent. "It starts with asking them to go to supermarkets and buy groceries for example. While the UAE is a relatively safe environment, parents can sometimes be too overprotective over their children," said Baur-Richter.
She noted that the public class is an invitation for parents to join mainstream programmes and organisations that are available in the UAE.
"Inclusion is a global challenge that will not happen in a day. It is an ongoing process that all of us as a community must contribute to."
She added: "[The class] is also a call to all organisations to see where to include people of determination wherever possible, which will be an economically feasible step that will serve the diverse crowd in UAE that is already used to accepting differences."
And as Lehmkuhl is going to lead her first Zumba class, Baur-Richter said it will be a demonstration of how an inclusive community could be created.
In December, Sedra Foundation launched its first inclusive youth talent club to address adults with special needs.
About the class
What: Zumba class open to beginners and professionals, followed by a talk about Inclusion and young adults.
Who: Led by Clari Lehmkuhl, UAE's first certified Zumba instructor with Down Syndrome
When: Saturday, July 8 from 11:00am.
Where: Fit & Flex Studios at Abu Dhabi Golf Club

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