As a teenager growing up in Mumbai, dance was never on the agenda for Priti H Panchmatia. With her father running his own finance business, she was ‘encouraged’ to do her M.Com, then take admission for an MBA degree. But eventually, her dancing feet took her on another tangent, and once she encountered zumba, there was no looking back.
It was Priti’s mother who encouraged her daughter in dance. “I was an obese kid, so she used to send me to aerobics classes to lose weight. That’s when I realised I could dance,” she narrates. After doing her M.Com, she quit B-school and took up a course in nutrition instead. “Even then, my father would have nothing to do with it! He still wanted me to join his business.”
Priti didn’t indulge her passion until after her marriage. “I’m a Gujarati married to a Sindhi. It was a love match. I had no ambition to work after marriage, and was at home for many years initially,” she says. To keep herself occupied, she began conducting hourly aerobics classes at home.
Then zumba came to India. An exercise fitness program created by Colombian dancer and choreographer Alberto Pérez during the 1990s, it uses principles from both aerobics and dance to achieve cardio and muscle-toning benefits. “Dancing doesn’t just have fitness benefits, it has mental health benefits too,” she says. “It reduces stress, increases confidence, and is a happiness booster. It’s very, very important in my life.”
Priti travelled to the US several times in those early years to certify herself in the many different formats of zumba. She also did her certification in Poundfit and TRX from the US while on her many visits.
From teaching at home, she began stepping out to teach at various fitness centres, and finally set up base at two studios in Bandra and Juhu. “In the beginning, no one in my family was in favour of me taking this up,” laughs Priti. “But eventually, they realised I was good with this, and I won their support.”
Now with an enviable client list of Mumbai’s movers and shakers – and a longer list of followers on social media – her best form of marketing has been word-of-mouth. To see Priti in action is to watch a woman in her element, bright, youthful, vibrant and at ease with herself, her body, her strength and her femininity. “Dancing makes me feel alive,” she says. The rhythm is in her blood.
First published in eShe’s August 2019 issue