It looks almost like any other night in a club.
At Mulcahy's in Wantagh, strobe lights swirl on the dance floor, Pitbull's "Alright" blares through the speakers and patrons grab cocktails at the bar.
But nobody's strutting in stilettos or skimpy dresses. Tonight, the dress code is sneakers, T-shirts and workout pants. The goal: Working up a sweat.
This is "Zumba in the club" -- the latest evolution of the Latin dance-inspired fitness program that has seen a huge spike in popularity since its inception in 2001. Now, several Long Island nightspots are hosting Zumba club nights to offer exercising in a more social environment.
"I definitely find it 10 times more interesting to be in the club than be in a gym," says attendee Jennifer Buffolino, 24, of Wantagh. "You can have a drink with your friends afterward."
Zumba club nights have cropped up the past few months at nightlife venues ranging from Napper Tandy's Irish Pub in Smithtown to Sugar Dining Den and Social Club in Carle Place. Owners and managers say it's a good fit on slower weeknights when there's nothing else booked in the venues.
The fitness aspect of Zumba, along with the dancing aspect of the nightclub makes for a "more energetic" experience, says Larry Blazee, co-owner of Avanti Night Club in Westbury, where monthly Zumba fitness parties have been offered since September.
Between 50 and 70 people have been showing up for occasional Zumba nights at Napper Tandy's in Smithtown, according to Joanne Rossiter, who leads classes there.
Get your zumba party on
At Mulcahy's, the Zumba party dances from one high-energy song to another, as five instructors demonstrate steps from an elevated stage. The crowd of more than 25 women follows along to rhythms that range from meringue to calypso. Dance moves involving turning in circles while gyrating hips and a salsa-like tango are typical. When songs end, some head to the bar to grab water bottles, wiping beads of sweat from their foreheads.
"I love it. It's a lot of fun," says Debbi Salomon, 46, of Wantagh. "It's the type of fitness that you can do at your own pace. The key is not to stop."
For Tina Scalise, 48, of Levittown, the club environment is "a nice bonding experience" with fellow students and instructors.
While teachers say a Zumba class is supposed to be a party even at the gym, there's even more enthusiasm in a club.
"When you have the gym, you're limited by the sound system," says Zumba instructor Brian Oakes of Williston Park. At the club "the music is going to be louder and you're going to have strobe lights flashing the colored lights to make it feel that much more like a party."
Instructor Darlene Smith, 45, of Seaford, says the club is a great place for Zumba newbies. "It's a little darker. There aren't mirrors all over the wall," she says. "It's less intimidating when you're in a crowd with people and you feel like you're in a party atmosphere."
UPCOMING ZUMBA CLUB NIGHTS
WHEN | WHERE 6:30-7:45 p.m. Dec. 9 at Mulcahy's, 1702 Middle Country Rd., Centereach
INFO 631-696-1111, muls.com
ADMISSION $10 (includes one drink)
WHEN | WHERE 8:30 - 10 p.m. Dec. 17 at Avanti Night Club, 272 Post Ave., Westbury
INFO 917-664-5884, zumbaonli.com
ADMISSION $30 ($25 advance) includes refreshments such as shrimp cocktail, fruit and sandwiches and half-price drink specials from 10 to 11 p.m.
WHEN | WHERE 7:30 p.m. Jan. 26 at Napper Tandy's Irish Pub, 15 E. Main St., Smithtown
INFO 631-360-0606, zumbaliny.com