Vancouver, Canada - Licensed Zumba instructor and Fitness 604 owner Maria Lopez danced, and still is dancing, towards her dreams.
After being a stay-at-home mom for almost two years, Maria was struggling to go back to the workforce in 2012. A friend invited her to attend a Zumba class. She had no idea what Zumba was, but she went and completely fell in love with it. She registered to become a Licensed Zumba instructor and got the certification on her birthday.
“I felt It was a sign. That’s when I knew in my heart that this was what I was meant to do,” recalls Maria, who was inspired to open a studio by the movie “Dance With Me.”
Fitness 604, named after Vancouver’s main area code, is not only a studio. Maria calls it “a home away from home.”
“The studio is unique because it’s not just a place where you come to work out, take classes and leave. It is a refuge, a happy place, a community, a place where we create and cultivate friendships, where ego is non-existent. Everyone that enters is welcomed with a smile and a sense of belonging. We respect, encourage, support and motivate each other. On Sundays, after class we bring food and share a meal together. Many of us have attended family and birthday events outside of the studio. We don’t just dance together, we truly enjoy each other’s company. We are a family and that’s what I believe sets us apart,” shares Maria, whose primary goal is to always motivate, encourage and provide fun and safe classes for students at different fitness levels.
The studio saw fateful events before it became what it is now. One day, Maria was driving down Fraser Street and before the intersection, she saw a sign that read “Fitness Ballroom.” Maria pulled over, called, scheduled an appointment, and viewed the space.
“The moment I saw the dance floor, I was blown away – 3,200 square feet of dancefloor space! I could visualize the space being packed. So I decided to rent it for a couple times a week and start my own classes. The first day was great. I had friends and family attend and show their support. The following days were less busy, but I expected that. So I decided to stand outside and welcome people to join. One person came, then two, then four. Those people invited people, and so it went. For a space so large, having 4 to 6 people per class looked silly but that was okay because you start small,” she shares.
It was not that easy. Many ballroom dancers scoffed at Maria, but she did take it personally. As the weeks went by, class size grew to 20+. One day, Maria could not find a parking space. As she got closer to the building, she noticed people standing outside and thought it was a fire drill. There was a line from downstairs leading up to the ballroom. Maria asked one of the ladies, “What happened?” and the lady replied, “We’re waiting for the Zumba Instructor.”
“My eyes filled up with tears as I had envisioned this, but experiencing it was overwhelming. I took a deep breath, walked in, set up, greeted and thanked everyone for joining me and started class. It was a packed class of 75+ students! I couldn't believe it!” Maria says excitedly.
A man who used to laugh at her classes came up to Maria and congratulated her. She was bryond amazed.
One day, Maria got a one-month’s notice that the building had been sold and they had to vacate. She was devastated and thought her dreams were crushed. Maria I announced the closing to her students and their response was, “Open up your own studio and we will follow.”
So Maria started the search for a new space. She found a smaller studio so she taught 16 classes a week to make up for the space and number of students she had in the old studio. Maria stayed there for two years while searching for the perfect space. Finally, on January of 2016, she came across a wonderful location where Fitness 604 is standing now.
Maria is grateful – to her students, to the people who inspired her along the way, even to those who did not believe in her. Maria says, “Never allow anyone to convince you that your dreams are impossible.”