Michelle Antonucci Smith: Zumba® Fitness Instructor

Written by: Frank Iacono


Michelle Antonucci Smith is licensed to teach Zumba®, Zumba Gold®, Zumba Toning®, Zumba Senato®, Zumba Step® and Zumba Kids® and has been a Zumba® Instructor since 2011. She is an active member of the Zumba Instructor’s Network. Her goal is to have people leave her class sweating, smiling, and wanting more.

For Michelle, the most important thing to her when she teaches Zumba® is to make it a great experience for her students ─ just have FUN! She has a passion for leading and promoting a healthy lifestyle through physical activity and nutritional cleansing. She was able to lose 40 lbs. by living a healthy lifestyle and now is passionate about helping others reach their fitness and health goals. Her high energy classes have been presented throughout New Jersey and in Europe. Today she continues to travel, learn, teach, and share her love for movement with the world.

Michelle’s success as a Zumba Fitness Instructor is highly attributed to the loving support of her family, friends, teachers, and passionate Zumba lovers along the way. She loves to provide “exercise in disguise” through Zumba, inspiration, motivation, and consistent encouragement for her clients. She is also a mom to two very active boys. In her spare time, she loves spending time with her friends and family, reading, and going to the beach.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michelle Antonucci Smith and asking her a few questions about her career as a Zumba®, her background, her certifications, and her high energy class sessions.

Q&A Session

The Creative Spotlight: At what age did you become interested in Zumba®? And, who or what inspired you to pursue a career as an instructor?

Michelle Antonucci Smith: Zumba® Fitness is a total body workout, combining all elements of fitness – cardio, muscle conditioning, balance, flexibility, and boosted energy. Zumba® takes the “work” out of workout, by mixing low-intensity and high-intensity moves for an interval style, calorie-burning dance fitness party. Zumba® Fitness classes are often called exercise in disguise!

I started taking Zumba® classes in 2005. I just had my second child and was looking to get back in shape. I immediately became addicted to the classes. After being a student for 6 years, I decided to become a Zumba® Instructor.


TCS: Are you a certified Zumba® instructor? And, do you have any other certifications?

MAS: I am licensed to teach Zumba®, Zumba Gold®, Zumba Toning®, Zumba Senato®, Zumba Step® and Zumba Kids®. I am also active member of the Zumba® Instructor’s Network (ZIN). I received my license in February of 2011. Although I love to take other types of fitness classes such as weight training classes, spin, yoga, etc. I only teach Zumba® Fitness.

TCS: Do you think that Zumba® is a lot like high impact aerobics? If so, why?

MAS: Zumba® is similar to high impact aerobics in the sense that it is a cardio workout. However, the premise of Zumba® is to combine both high and low intensity songs to create an interval type training. Studies have shown that people tend to burn more calories via interval training than with a comparable period of steady-pace exercise.

TCS: Where are you currently holding your Zumba® classes?

MAS: I am definitely a gym rat! I do not own my own studio but I teach at various gyms. You can find my complete schedule on http://www.zumba.com. I work at several Work Out Worlds, Meridian Fitness, Brick Fitness for Women, and Gold’s Gym ─ all located in the Monmouth County New Jersey Shore area.

TCS: Why do you think people are going so crazy for Zumba®? And, what is the age group of the people that participate in your Zumba® classes?

MAS: In the beginning, many “experts” claimed that Zumba® was just another fad. However, I disagree! Zumba® was created by founder Beto Perez in the mid 1990’s. I think it has only gotten more popular with each year. The reason so many people go crazy for Zumba® is simple. The moment the beat drops, it is an instant party. There is no other class that I have taken at any gym where people are smiling, laughing, and having fun from start to finish AND getting in an amazing workout at the same time. You can expect lots of smiles, sweat, and laughs in a Zumba® class, not to mention the kick ass music! I have students in high school, college, stay at home moms, and retirees, so there is no set age group for Zumba ─ young and old all have a great time, not to mention that both women AND men attend my classes.

TCS: For those who’ve never taken Zumba®, what does a beginner need to know before taking a class? Do you have any tips for newbies?

MAS: My class rule is: “Smile, Have Fun, and LOVE Pitbull.” My best tip for a newbie is to go into a class just expecting to have fun. Don’t get caught up in worrying about making a wrong move. There are no wrong moves in Zumba® ─ only accidental solos. All the gyms I teach at, and most gyms in general, offer either a free day or free week pass, so I encourage everyone reading this to just try a class. I recommend wearing either a cross-training sneaker or a dance sneaker. Popular brands such as Ryka, Bloch, Capezio, and Sansha have dance sneakers. Zumba® Fitness also has their own line of dance sneakers.

TCS: Are there certain Zumba® classes designed specifically for beginners?

MAS: Zumba® is a perfect class whether your fitness level is at a beginner, intermediate, or advanced level. The key is that each individual go at their own pace and the moves can be modified to the individual’s level. However, there is a specialty Zumba® class called Zumba Gold®. Zumba Gold® is geared towards the active older adult who is looking for a modified Zumba® class that recreates the original moves they love at a lower-intensity. You can take a Zumba® class every day if you like but if you are new to exercise in general, then I would recommend 3 x a week to start.

TCS: What if you are not coordinated and can’t dance can you still take a Zumba® class?

The biggest comment I hear from someone that has never attended a class is that they are intimated to try Zumba® because “they are not coordinated.” I want people to know that they do not have to be superstar dancers or be super coordinated to take a class. The key to Zumba® is to just let go and have fun!

TCS: Will Zumba® help adults get in shape and lose weight?

MAS: Zumba® is an amazing cardiovascular workout. Many of my students have lost weight after they started taking classes but you have to combine it with the right nutrition if you really want to see results. To achieve a safe weekly weight loss the emphasis is really 80% on nutrition and 20% on exercise. The amount of calories you can burn in Zumba® depends on a few factors, but the average is between 500 to 1,000 calories per hour of Zumba®.

TCS: Can Zumba® classes help adults increase their focus, establish self-confidence and enhance coordination much like karate?

MAS: That is a great question and yes to all! Learning the dancing moves in Zumba® can greatly improve coordination. Zumba® routines, thanks to their dancing roots, can lower inhibitions (in a good way). Zumba® will improve your posture, which will naturally increase your confidence, and slowly mastering routine after Zumba® routine will increase your confidence in a Zumba® class and everywhere else.

TCS: What kind of music is played during your Zumba® class? Do you allow the students to make song requests?

MAS: One of my favorite parts about being a Zumba® instructor is the variety of music that I can expose my students to. In a typical Zumba® class the emphasis is on Latin and International music. The 4 core rhythms are Merengue, Cumbia, Reggaeton, and Salsa. I will always have those 4 core rhythms in my class. However, I may also feature a Tango, Flamenco, Bollywood, Quebradita, Bachata, African, Belly Dancing, Axe, Calypso, Soca, or Latin Pop. I will also include current pop music ─ including my favorite artist Pitbull because my students love to dance to songs that they are familiar with. I love when students request a specific song!

TCS: Is there a high demand for Zumba® instructors? And, what is the best way for someone to find a local Zumba® instructor or class?

MAS: There is definitely a high demand for Zumba® classes and most gym schedules offer a variety of days and times for Zumba® because it is still one of the most popular group fitness classes to take. However, there are so many women and men that have become licensed to teach, that it may be difficult at times to find a class to teach if you are a new instructor. The best way to find a licensed instructor is to:

  • Go To Zumba.com
  • Select Find a Class in Your ‘Hood!
  • Enter Your Zip Code
  • Hit Search Classes
  • View The Available Classes in Your Area. Only Licensed ZINS Can Add their Class Schedule.


TCS: If a student is unable to make it to a class, do you recommend any good Zumba® DVDs?

MAS: Zumba® has several DVD’s but the two most popular are the Zumba® Fitness Super Cardio Dance Party, and Zumba® Fitness Exhilarate Body Shaping System DVD Set. Zumba® Fitness also has some amazing video games for both Wii and Xbox 360. However, in my opinion nothing beats a live class!

TCS: Why do some Zumba® Instructors wear one pant leg up and one pant leg down? Is it all about attitude? And, do you do that too?

MAS: That style did not originate with Zumba® but was a mid-90s trend first spotted in LL Cool J’s “Hey Lover” music video in 1995. The style quickly became one of the trends that personified that era of hip-hop style. I don’t really see many Zumba® instructors doing that any longer. For me, it is all about the Capri pants or Harem pants.

TCS: In what ways do you market your business and stay connected to your audience?

MAS: I market my business and stay connected with my audience via the following vehicles:

TCS: Why do some Zumba® Instructors wear tassels on your pants? What does it mean? And, do you wear them?

MAS: When I first started teaching Zumba® in 2011 the tassel pants were big in Zumba®, but again most instructors I know do not wear them. We do a lot of booty shaking in Zumba® so having tassels, does make it more fun!

TCS: Why don’t some Zumba® Instructors verbally cue their students or talk more during the class? What is your style preference?

MAS: The traditional Zumba® class emphasizes non-verbal cueing, as it offers many benefits to a class. Non-verbal cueing allows the instructor and students to feel the music and enjoy the party atmosphere of a Zumba® Fitness class. I am not like most instructors, and I do wear a headset. I definitely keep the party atmosphere going and only use the headset at a minimum for basic cues, but I find that my students appreciate both the combination of verbal and non-verbal cueing that I offer.

TCS: Why do you think Zumba® instructors are so different from one another?

MAS: This is the most important point that people should take away from this article. You can take a Zumba® class with 20 different instructors, and each class will be completely different. One of the best things about being an instructor is the total freedom Zumba® gives us to add our own flavor and style ─ as long as we follow the basic guidelines Zumba® provided to us. It is key that students try a variety of instructors, in order to find a few that they connect with the most.

TCS: Is there any other information that you can provide to someone interested in Zumba® that we didn’t cover in the interview already?

MAS: I think we covered just about everything. I hope to see some of your readers in my Zumba® class with one pant leg up and tassels swinging!

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono - The Creative Spotlight

Frank Iacono is a highly skilled results-oriented Strategic Marketing Professional with proven critical thinking, problem solving, and project management skills, developed through more than 20 years of experience concentrated in integrated marketing strategies. Frank brings a thorough, hands-on understanding of marketing strategies and technological platforms as related to applications available for web design, content development, email marketing, site and campaign analytics, search marketing and optimization, service and product marketing, lead and demand generation, social media, and customer retention.

Frank has a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he received his Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.


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