Zumba at Charlestown retirement community in Catonsville.

Seniors dance in the Zumba class at Charlestown Retirement Community. Jack Jackson is in front. (Barbara Haddock Taylor, Baltimore Sun / January 24, 2013)

There are many rooms in the Charlestown retirement community in Catonsville, but none of them are louder than the new fitness center, where — with a mix of music and timely movements — Zumba instructor Robin Rouse keeps residents on their toes, and off them.

"I truly think that Zumba is for everyone," said Rouse, a licensed instructor who teaches at several senior facilities. "The only way to work on balance is to be off-balance."

How it got started: Charlestown began offering Zumba classes about a year ago. After the instructor left last June, Rouse stepped in and started teaching the class, which is held every Friday.

"Robin's great," said Esther Fisher. "She does a terrific job, and she has a lot of enthusiasm."

Rouse says her passion for dance bloomed when she took tap and ballet lessons starting at 7 or 8 years old.

"I stopped for a few years and then picked up again in college," Rouse said. "I earned my degree in theater performance. Fitness is just my thing."

In January, the class moved to a larger fitness center to accommodate the increasingly active Charlestown population. Rouse said she hopes the larger room and equipment will draw even more residents to her class.

Who's in the group: Approximately nine members, women and men ages 74 to 95.

A typical class: Rouse leads the residents to a variety of musical styles including Latin, funk and disco. Class members follow Rouse's moves, from side-stepping, hip-swaying and clapping to crossovers with their legs.

She keeps an eye on their safety but allows them to be as free with their moves as they want.

"It's a safe class. If there's someone who can do more physically, they do more," Rouse said. "I don't have to tell them to go faster. But if there's someone who can't do that much, I tell them to do only what they can do."

Although Rouse is certified to teach various Zumba classes, her class at Charlestown is Zumba Gold. The pacing of Zumba Gold meets the needs of residents by allowing them to copy the easy-to-follow movements.

Why people like it: Former teacher and ballroom dance instructor Jack Jackson says he's always been into dance and exercise.

"A lot of men shy away from exercising to music for whatever reason," said Jackson, who taught at the Arthur Murray Dance Studio in Baltimore. "But once they try it, they like it."

"I love it. It's a fun way to get the aerobic and other exercise in," said Ann Engel. "We look forward to coming back every week."

Rouse says it's never a challenge to get people moving during class — only to convince people that they can do the workout.

"I think the participants and I are pretty smart about the way we approach the workouts," she said. "Some people call it 'Zumba slower,' and that will make instructors go crazy. No, it's not 'Zumba slower.' It's 'Zumba safer.' "

zach.sparks@baltsun.com