One of the first questions I've asked myself in considering whether or not I should become a Zumba instructor is, "What makes you think you would be a good Zumba instructor?"
Great question. I'll explore the benefits of all of my life experiences that make me an ideal candidate soon, but I would like to make this post all about my dance resume. This is the path I took to get here, but you have a path of your own that you should be just as proud of!
I got really into music throughout middle school and high school (and college) because of my involvement with band. I didn't have much interest in dance until college, other than just for fun with friends.
I started taking lessons in salsa dancing early in my freshman year at the University of Michigan, all the way back in 2003. To this day, I don't know exactly why I went. I just wanted to try something new. However, I immediately fell in love.
Those single lessons were not enough of a fix for me, so I joined a club at Michigan called M-Salsa. This club teaches and dances Rueda de Casino style salsa. It is a very fun and social type of salsa where you dance in a circle, continuously changing partners, and one person calls moves so that the whole circle can move in sync. Even watching Rueda is beautiful (but you should dance it because it is a blast). I danced with M-Salsa for 2.5 hours every Monday for 4+ years (there were some big chunks missing during competition seasons for ballroom). I was eventually asked be an instructor, an honor that I still hold dear to my heart. Unfortunately, they asked me a little too late. I had already decided to pursue graduate school at UCLA and was leaving in just a few weeks. The club is still thriving, and I'd love to return and dance with them next time I'm nearby.
When first moving to CA, my girlfriend and I danced Rueda de Casino regularly in the bay area with Salsa Nick (his bio is at the bottom of the hyperlink). He and his partner kept inviting us to join the full salsa scene, but I was only around for a few months, and we were happy enough learning a different style of Rueda.
When I moved to Los Angeles for graduate school at UCLA, I couldn't find a Rueda group, so I started taking lessons from the amazing (and beautiful) Jackie Galstaun. This was the first time that I worked a lot on couples salsa dancing, and it was the first time that I started to practice the flashy, crowd-pleasing moves. L.A. is all about flashy when you are dancing at salsa clubs.
While dancing with M-Salsa in my third year, one of the girls who came regularly noted that I was a particularly good lead and that I should audition for Michigan's Ballroom Dance Team. I had never really considered any dancing other than salsa. I didn't even know there was a ballroom team. This was before Dancing with the Stars became popular, so our ballroom team wasn't particularly large.
After a long talk with my girlfriend, we decided that it would not be a good idea to join forces to try out for the ballroom team. (We didn't want to add competitive pressure to a harmonious relationship, and she wasn't as interested.) So, I went by myself to a few free ballroom workshops that the team put on. Up until then, I had only danced salsa and some swing, but I had grown into a really comfortable dancer (and lead).
One thing lead to another, and I was dancing at a competition the next month in the Newcomer category. My partner, who I had found through marching band, and I ended up being finalists in almost every category. My ballroom career launched almost immediately.
I did a partner switch and spent 2 years dancing with my partner pictured above. We were finalists in many, many Bronze-level (and some Silver-level) events throughout the midwest collegiate circuit. I remember winning Mambo at the Ohio Star Ball (in 2007), and I feel it was our crowning moment.
I had to switch partners during my final year of dancing at Michigan. My new partner was quite young, but she was a very hard worker. We ended up being just as successful, if not more. I didn't keep very good track, and I don't know if they did either. We danced for fun, and doing well was just an added bonus. I do know that I find ribbons everywhere whenever I am packing or unpacking.
While in Michigan, I was training under Steven and Susan McFerran, who were amazing 10-Dance Blackpool Finalists when they were competing internationally. They were truly talented instructors, and I owe most of my technique and technical knowledge of dancing to them. I also took ballroom classes from Jackie Galstaun in L.A., just to stay brushed up on it.
I started Zumba in Los Angeles, and much like Salsa dancing, I fell in love immediately. My girlfriend had heard about it, and tried it, at a yoga studio near her house. We were living in different parts of California while I was attending graduate school, but she knew that this fitness program would fit me perfectly. I went to Zumba 4 times in the first week that I discovered it. My endurance immediately improved, as did my running schedule, and my eating habits.
Now, I've been going regularly for a full year. I've been to classes taught by 9 different instructors. I've been told by several people that I'm 'inspiring' and 'full of energy', and most importantly, that I should become a Zumba instructor. It helped me train for a 5k, and it has generally inspired me to be more healthy. I'll have posts coming on a few of my favorite instructors, especially the one who finally convinced me to get licensed.
So, that is my dance resume. It's just strange enough, for a long enough period of time, that I fit perfectly into Zumba. This background has prepared me to be a successful Zumba instructor, and that is why I think I'll be good.
Here's to continuing to dance (especially Zumba) for many more years,