Zumba fans in Iran are channeling Kevin Bacon to keep dancing in lieu of ban

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A Zumba class in Washington D.C. Iran recently banned the popular dance workout. Getty Images

Iran's ban on Zumba, the dance workout that revolves around exercise through rhythm, is not being well-received according to The New York Times. Iran's head of Sports for All Federation, Ali Majd Ara, issued a letter this month banning Zumba from the list of "acceptable sports," citing the illegality of "rhythmic movements" and "dancing." Locals who have fallen in love with the exercise are furious about the ban, and are fighting it like Kevin Bacon. They are doing things such as changing the name of the dance and attempting to circumvent the law through semantics.

The law comes from Iran's Shiite Muslim clerics, who have instituted a ton of these types of laws designed to monitor the Iranian people. Dancing isn't the issue, it's what dancing can lead to that perturbs the clerics. These laws are, of course, nearly impossible to enforce, and people dance regardless. When Iranian dance instructor Sunny Nafisi taught a Zumba class under a different class name, she was never bothered. However, when she changed the name to Zumba, the New York Times reports, the government came down on her class.

"I taught Zumba for years here," she told The Times' Thomas Erdbrink. "But instead of calling it Zumba, I called it 'exercise music' so no one would notice." When one instructor changed the name of their class to Zumba, others followed suit. This led to the law banning Zumba.

Ara wrote: "Considering that activities such as Zumba, performance of rhythmic movements and dancing in any form and under any title lacks legal credibility, I request that you issue an order to ban such movements." Ara is in a position of power, so this letter was taken as declaration of a ban.

Locals are unhappy about the ban for a wide array of reasons. "I like [Zumba] because it's fun. I become happy, and my spirit is uplifted when I dance," said Sepideh Heydari, a nail specialist, to The Times. She addressed the reasoning for her discontent with the ban as well. "Suddenly someone comes and says this or that is not allowed." 

This has been a long-standing issue in Iran, but locals don't plan to let the ban keep them from dancing. When Nafisi was asked by her mother-in-law if the ban would end Zumba in Iran, Nafisi's response was curt. "Of course not," she responded. "Zumba will not be stopped."

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