On this particular afternoon, we find Sarah Hudson on the serene second floor of the downtown Lester Grile Administrative Center, where the 53-year-old mother of four recruits volunteers for Fort Wayne Community Schools’ Study Connection tutoring program.
She wears stylish glasses, a flowing blouse and a near-continuous smile as she describes the rewards of her job.
"This is where I’m supposed to be right now," she says. "I love being out in the community."
In the evening, though, we find her on another second floor. And it’s not so quiet.
Extremely loud, bass-driven, rhythmic music thumps from two speakers separated by the room’s width, each suspended just below the ceiling of an upstairs workout room at Empowered Sports Club, 12124 Lima Road.
Ten women of various ages, all in exercise apparel and gym shoes, move across the hardwood maple floor in near unison to the music. As they dance and step and roll their forearms and fists like a boxer on a speed bag, they watch themselves in a wall of mirrors. Nine of the 10 face and follow the moves of the instructor up front, who wears a black headband, pink sleeveless top and black tights.
"Reach!" Hudson yells out to the group behind her as she lifts her arms over her head. "Four! Three! Two! One!"
She snaps her fingers, pivots 360 degrees on her left foot, and as the music continues, turns to one of her students, smiles and says, "Let’s get funky wit’ it."
For six years, at least, Sarah Hudson has taught Zumba, which is a high-impact blend of dance, aerobics, hip hop, samba and mambo. It’s been called a close relative to jazzercise.
"You dance with both of them, but with Zumba, you put a little more fitness to it," Hudson says. "Jazzercise is more focused on dance, and Zumba is more cardio."
Cardio it is. Like a commercials-free block of songs on the radio, the music intended to induce sweat nearly bleeds from one to the next with nary a pause. During the few precious seconds in between, the women rush to the room’s back and sides to steal a swipe from their towels and a hit from their water bottles. No time to rest. Hudson has them moving again.
"Keep that heart rate up!" she shouts from the front. Then she flashes a smile, so wide that it makes her nose wrinkle.
"You know, I’ve wondered how long can this craze go on," Hudson said. "It’s in every country except Antarctica, and that’s because they haven’t taught the penguins how to Zumba yet."
Because it appeals to all ages, and has different variations, including aqua Zumba, Hudson doesn’t anticipate theexercise to lose its momentum, either.
"There are millions and millions of followers," she says. "I don’t see it fading anytime soon."
Speaking of fading, many of her class members seem to be doing just that. The only one who is going strong is Hudson.
"It’s crazy," says her 25-year-old daughter, Samantha Hudson. "Everyone thinks the daughter should be the more bubbly version of her. She maxes out all the time.
"If you look at the age by itself, it would make you think she’s old. But if you see her, and how vibrant she looks and how she moves, it’s not a surprise at all. She’s been moving my whole life. That’s where I get my moves from."
"Sammie" Hudson, a member of the Madam Ants dance team that performs at the Fort Wayne Mad Ants NBA D-League games, coaxed her mother into taking Zumba classes nearly 10 years ago. Shortly after, when Sammie became a certified instructor, Sarah gained her certification.
"Actually it was selfish," Sammie says. "I’m not going to lie. I needed a substitute (teacher) here and there, and since we were in the same household, I had a sub to call on. When she came into it, she had a fan base all her own."
Sarah Hudson, married to Garland Hudson Sr., with three sons ages 33, 32 and 29, and a grandmother of six, still teaches three nights a week at three different venues.
A native of Detroit, she was the eighth of 11 children.
"Five brothers and five sisters," she says. "We were never in need. Back in the day, people assumed that when you had that many children, you were on some kind of assistance. Never. Our parents set the foundation to work hard, get an education, and get what you want in life. No excuses. I carry that to this day. You can get anything in life you want if you work hard for it."