Syncopated percussive rhythms and deep drumbeats of the surdo reverberate throughout the lobby of the Treme Recreation Center at 900 N. Villere St.
As a couple dozen dancers rush to join in a vigorous, two-hour workout accompanied by live Brazilian drumming on the repinque, tamborim, caixa, timbau and conga — others gather to swim in the indoor pool or attend one of the dozens of programs offered free at the $5.6 million New Orleans Recreation Development Commission center.
Aerobic classes, senior fitness classes, piano lessons, ballet, hip-hop and tap dance classes, yoga, arts and crafts, swim lessons, water aerobics and lap swimming are all regular events. The center also features a computer lab, Ping-Pong table and an indoor basketball court. Exercise equipment, including NordicTrack treadmills, exercise bikes and elliptical training machines are being installed.
In a year-round 25-meter pool, adult and children’s swim lessons are offered every weekday afternoon. Many adults recovering from surgery find that swimming is an excellent way to regain strength and mobility without putting pressure on joints.
“One woman had a stroke, and swimming helped her become more mobile,” said Kenisha Thomas, water safety instructor at the Treme center. Water aerobics is a popular class, meeting both morning, and evenings.
Some people come twice a day for a “double-dip,” she said. The rhythms of old school funk songs by Al Green and the Isley Brothers animate aquatic stretching and bouncing exercises.
“The doctor told me I couldn’t do weight-bearing exercises,” said Jeanne Eddington, who attends water aerobics three days a week. “It’s fun getting into the water, and the music keeps you going.”
Monique Mitchell and Michelle Biagas have become friends while learning traditional Brazilian movements through the Samba classes Tuesday and Thursday nights and Saturday mornings.
“I feel lost when I don’t go,” said Mitchell. “My body says, ‘Where’s my workout?’ ”
For almost two years, the women have enjoyed free Casa Samba classes taught by Carolyn Barber-Pierre while her husband, Curtis Pierre, leads the drumming. When the class moved to the newly renovated center, dancers followed. Biagas said the rigorous exercise pushes her physical boundaries.
“Your shape changes,” Mitchell said.
Renovation of the Treme Center last year and construction of other NORDC centers are an integral part of Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s FitNOLA initiative, which set a goal of transforming New Orleans into one of the most physically fit U.S. cities by 2018.
“The doctor told me I couldn’t do weight-bearing exercises. It’s fun getting into the water and the music keeps you going.” Jeanne Eddington, water aerobics participant
Centers under construction include the Gernon Brown Recreation Center in Lakeview for $1.2 million; Stallings St. Claude Recreation Center and pool in Bywater, $6.1 million; Rosenwald Recreation Center and pool in Mid City, $6.3 million; and Andrew P. Sanchez Center in the Lower Ninth Ward, also with an indoor lap pool, $19 million.
The Treme Center has one of two existing indoor NORDC pools. The other is at Joe W. Brown Center in New Orleans East. In November, the city broke ground on a new $11.2 million NORDC administrative building at the former Milne Boys Home.
Inspired by first lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign, the city has developed a comprehensive Shared Action Blueprint for all residents to achieve healthy weight and level of fitness within five years.
“The goal is to get everybody healthy, in shape and having fun,” Thomas said.