MUKILTEO — In the popular Zumba classes at the YMCA, he’s that ripped guy.
Not that others aren’t ripped, but most aren’t guys.
And he’s at the front of the class, shaking it.
Mike Dixon, 53, was recently certified as an instructor in Zumba, a high-energy dance-fitness set to Latin music and pelvis-pulsating rhythms.
It’s the latest diploma for Dixon, and it might seem an unlikely one.
Dixon has undergraduate and master’s degrees from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. You know, the MIT. He’s also a former elected water district commissioner.
At the aerospace company AvtechTyee, he’s a business unit manager.
“I’ve got a team of engineers and production people and sales people that work with me,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of technical folks. My co-workers think it’s hilarious. They say, ‘Oh, really, wow, you do that?’”
They’re not into Zumba.
“Not yet,” Dixon said. “Some do yoga.”
Many guys wouldn’t dare join him in Zumba class, with floor-to-ceiling mirrors that show off the moves of everyone in the class, even those trying to hide in the back row.
“There aren’t very many men who do it,” he said. “They don’t like to dance. And they’re intimidated.”
Zumba was started in the 1990s by a man, Colombian dancer and choreographer Alberto “Beto” Pérez. It has a large male following internationally.
Dixon hopes to lead by example, and draw more fellows into the Zumba arena.
It’s not a competition.
“You don’t have to do it perfectly, you just have to do something,” Dixon said. “You get a sustained cardio workout in a fun environment. It feels like you are dancing, but you are actually getting a really good workout. It’s like a stealth exercise.”
Maybe so, but it looks so, uh, unmanly … and then there are the bright trademark Zumba clothes with phrases such as “Booty shaker.”
Dixon credits the YMCA with getting him back in shape.
“I succumbed to business life and was over 250 pounds,” he said. “I started walking on the treadmill. I ran a half-marathon and lifted a lot of weights.”
One day he looked into the Zumba room and liked what he saw.
Many newcomers to Zumba start in the back. Dixon went right to the front row. Zumba instructor Gail McClary said Dixon showed talent from the get-go.
“He had great energy,” she said. She encouraged him to pursue becoming an instructor.
“Locally, there are a handful of male instructors,” she said. “Worldwide, there’s a lot.”
Dixon grew up in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where dancing was part of the rhythm of life. He came to Boston in 1984 for college and later moved across the country for work.
He’s as comfortable with capital projects as he is with salsa musician Marc Anthony’s latest song, “Parecen Viernes,” which is on his Zumba playlist.
Dixon was elected twice to Alderwood Water & Wastewater District, but had to step down from his second six-year term in 2018 when he bought a house outside the district boundaries. He is the single dad to Nehemiah, 12, and Naomi, 10. Both are active in YMCA programs, but not Zumba.
Each hour-long class has about 10 dance routines. Dixon has been training with instructors and leading a few songs in their classes. He hopes to have a class of his own in the fall.
Dixon said Zumba has made him a better dancer.
“I practice like crazy,” he said. “I have to learn moves forward and backward and inside and out.”