Zambia is known globally for it’s copper but not for much longer as Namaala Liebenthal would like to see the African nation become known for something a little different – ZOCA. Liebenthal is the creator of ZOCA— short for Zambia’s Own Caribbean and African dance fever a fitness program that has taken Southern Africa by storm and is now spreading it’s rhythm across to the US and Carribean islands.
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The mantra that sums ZOCA up in three simple phrases: “Shake it up, shake it out, and shake it off,” which is to say, “dare to do something different today, shake the stress and tension out through a high-​energy class, and ultimately shake it [the weight] off.”

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So what exactly is ZOCA? ZOCA is a uniquely Zambian take on dance fitness with its own dance vocabulary – inspired by the colourful carnivals of the Caribbean and the new boom in Afro-pop music that has spread from Africa to Europe, North America and the rest of the world.  ZOCA is a self proclaimed highly effective and exhilarating workout aimed not only at improving strength, muscle tone and endurance, but confidence and body image as well. The focus is on fun, freedom, and escape, and re-creating the feeling of Caribbean Carnival/African dance parties at the gym. 

“I want people to be able to follow along, but I want them to be challenged,” Liebenthal says.

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The closest format to ZOCA is of course the world famous Zumba. They’re both focused on ethnically diverse rhythms and they share a similar structure: The soundtrack keeps changing, and each new song has its own choreography. And there’s bound to be a lot of comparison because they both start with ‘Z’.


The steps of each are heavily influenced by the musical choices. But instead of Latin tunes, this playlist is what’s popular in Zambia — a mix of African pop and Caribbean soca. Most Zoca dances feature some variation on a circular hip movement called a “wine.” As Liebenthal explains, “It’s very much the mating dance” of Zambia’s 70 or so tribes. There’s also a lot of jumping, and some fairly complex steps.

ZOCA recently launched in Washington DC as well as Papua New Guinea and it’s fast growing. Would you try it out?

Check out ZOCA’s website and social media pages for more info on where and how to join Africa’s dance fitness movement.

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