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a legacy of joy

Longtime aerobic dance instructor Deb Giaimo leaves town recreation department after 27 years of teaching

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Aerobic dance instructor Deb Giaimo of Dublin wants to be clear: She is not retiring from teaching. But, after 27 years of teaching, Giaimo is leaving her work in Peterborough with the town Recreation Department.

Her students want to make something clear too: Giaimo is going to be missed.

Susan Kennedy of Peterborough describes Giaimo as “the best.”

When student Suzy McDonald of Peterborough reflects on Giaimo leaving, she get tears in her eyes. Her classes, said McDonald, “were light in the winter. She cares so much about her students. She knows them all by name. She is a real treasure.”

Mary Alice, 83, of Lyndeborough, has been a student of Giaimo’s for 18 years. “It’s her enthusiasm and her patience that make her so wonderful,” Alice said.

For Sandy Peschke, the three years spent taking Giaimo’s classes have changed her life. Not only did the classes give Peschke a way to express herself, they also introduced her to friends and she attributes the classes to the lessening of pain in her knee.

Giaimo said aerobic dance has always been her passion.

After marrying her husband, Fred Giaimo, in 1971, and having two children, Giaimo said she was looking for something to do.

“I’ve always liked to dance,” she explained. So, she signed up for an aerobics instruction course in Hancock and was hooked.

“Back then, we were doing all our routines with tapes and using the soundtrack to ‘Flashdance,’” Giaimo said, laughing.

Giaimo immediately began sharing her passion. She taught classes at Cheshire YMCA and Gold’s Gym in Keene. Today, she teaches at Total Fitness Zone in Keene.

Giaimo teaches aerobic dance, Zumba — a fast paced dance program that integrates Latin beats — and chair exercises at various adult care facilities.

For the past 14 years, Giaimo has also lead a line-dancing team. The Monadnock Mavericks have performed at the Big E in Springfield Mass., at the Hillsborough Balloon Festival, at the Pumpkin Festival in Keene and at Children of the Arts Festival in Peterborough.

At one point, Giaimo said she was teaching 10 classes a week. Sometimes, she had as many as 50 or 60 people in a class.

For a long time, Giaimo choreographed all her own aerobic dance programs. Today, she utilizes many techniques she has learned since becoming certified in Zumba instruction.

When Giaimo started teaching Zumba in 2007, she said she was the only instructor in the area. Today, she said there are dozens. For Giaimo this is “exciting.”

In the fitness industry, Giaimo said, trends come and go. Exercises like kickboxing to step aerobics fitness programs are always fluctuating in popularity, she said. Zumba has “welcomed people back to the fact that dance is fun and a great way to stay healthy.”

Giaimo believes people are attracted to aerobic dance of any type because it’s a mental challenge, the music is fun and classes build camaraderie.

“I always said if it’s not fun, I don’t want to do it,” she said.

Aerobic dance is also a workout, but for Giaimo it’s something more as well. Aerobic dance allows people to move at their own pace, and to be flexible if they have injuries, she added.

Giaimo said leaving Peterborough has been very emotional, but that some health issues and a desire to try new things has promoted her to cut back on the number of classes she teaches.

Looking around at the crowd of more than 30 men and women who gathered in the Peterborough Town Hall to wish her goodbye on March 6, Giaimo wiped a tear from her eye.

“That’s the wonderful thing about teaching, you make friends. It’s like a very big family. I will be back here again in some capacity,” she said.

Peterborough Recreation Program Coordinator Lisa Koziell-Betz said she wasn’t surprised by the turnout for Giaimo’s goodbye party. “She has always had a very loyal and active following,” said Koziell-Betz. “We are sad to see her go, but hopefully the transition will be smooth and people will continue coming to the classes.”

Diana Beam from Bennington will be teaching Giaimo’s classes. Beam is a former student of Giaimo’s, who is certified in Zumba and as a personal trainer. “She’s interested and enthusiastic,” Giaimo said.

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