Jessica Bartel


Since Nov 2010

Why I Zumba: the oh-so-long juicy details.

My youngest daughter was a challenge. She cried so much, all the time in fact. For months and months I was on the edge ready to lose it at any minute. I tried all the medicines the doctor recommended and did everything I could think of. When she cried she looked like she was in the most intense pain. It hated to watch her like that and it was 20 hours a day!  I was worn out.

I have always loved working out, whether in the gym, a treadmill, playing basketball, racquetball, anything at all!  But one thing I had never been into was aerobic classes. I had nothing against it but just never really done it. Our family joined the YMCA because they offered financial assistance to our broke little family. The first day I went to the gym, I dropped the kids off at the childcare which was right next to the aerobics room and I heard something wonderful. I stopped in my tracks. Latin music! Oh, how I love that sound! 

In college my freshman roommate from the Netherlands was an accomplished ballroom dancer. She was so amazing and inspirational that she convinced me, a Jock, into taking a class. My first class was Beginning Latin and I actually really liked it. I was shockingly (to me) quite good. My first competition at the end of the semester was the Rumba and I placed 6th place out of 80 something couples!  Being competitive and liking to win, I found a new passion. Over the next year and a half, I enter a Samba, Waltz, Quickstep, Paso Doble competitions, all placing in the top seven!  Eventually I tried my hand at Amateur which included Chacha, Rumba, and Samba and I got blown away...meaning I was horrible compared to other real amateurs! 

Some where during this time, my same roommate wanted to go Salsa dancing at the night club on a double date. I brought my boyfriend at the time who I could have a blast with watching paint dry. We had NO idea what we were doing but i absolutely had the best time. A little later I went to another Salsa night with just Jessica (yeah, same name), leaving the men behind. We were asked to dance all night by random guys and I started to learn, mostly Merenque. Summer came and I left the West Coast and came back to Georgia. I met a gorgeous Latino at a local church dance who asked if I wanted to go Latin dancing at the club sometime. I said yes...duh. I had enough experience to where we had a good time. He was amazing (and did i mention gorgeous) and very dedicated to helping me learn. We started going every week and he helped me overcome the embarrassment of being 'sexy'. For some of you that may be hard to imagine but everyone has to start somewhere! I remember the first time we did one of those sexy Latin dips and then he pulled me up close and I busted out laughing. Being sexy was not my thing! 

It was a wonderful summer! I loved all the dancing but I had no idea what I would be heading into when i went back out west. Fall semester started and I quickly went out dancing.  This time without Jessica and no Alfredo.  I was nervous about not having my security blankets.  But didn't really realize how good I had become but I was asked to dance all night long. I met a few people that I started going dancing with weekly but it was only a matter of time before I began dancing with the professionals. My first professional partner was Carlos, a little shorter than me, but amazing. He came with a lot of drama so we didn't last long. We did my first professional competition together and took 3rd place!  But we separated after that, still as friends and social dance partners. Some times we would bust out the old moves at the club which was super fun because we could turn alot of heads. 

Some how, by some miracle, my next dance partner was the best Salsa dancer in all of Salt Lake, Olvis. We also only did one competition together but this time taking second place. At this point I'm obsessed with Salsa. Being in school was hard financially to commit like I wanted to. So i decided when i graduated, I would move to Los Angeles, the Salsa Headquarters of the World!  I worked in Real Estate during the day but at night I was out dancing.

I loved my time in LA. It was a little lonely without all my crew, students, and fans but my experience was everything I wanted.  There is nothing like dancing in LA, the average dancer was better and the professionals were off the hook.  Being the new girl, I got alot of attention.  In one song I could dance with upwards of 10 different guys.  Its really cool.  The guys circle around the girls they want to dance with and then it begins.  The lady starts with one partner and is passed to the next guy every 30 seconds or one minute.  Salsa songs can be very long so sometimes I would be out there dancing full intensity for ten minutes, focusing like crazy because every guy leads different and you have to really tune in.  Crowds gather in to watch this display and I lived for those moments! The adrenaline- oh my!  This is what I miss the most about competitive dancing...

While in LA I quit dancing cold turkey. That's right. One night i drove to Downtown LA, all decked out, ready to dance the night away! I drive by the club entrance and didn't have a good feeling so I kept going. I circled back but couldn't get myself to park. I went home and never danced as a professional again. I deserted my dance partner who we were practicing for the biggest Salsa dance competition in the world, the Mayan Competition  I never saw him again. Never saw my 'dancing friends' again. I just walked away.

Why, you ask? The problem with the Salsa world is that it is very cut throat. People are jealous and mean and only want to tear you down. I had endured so much emotional pain, and I'm a nice person so that really took a toll on me. But worse of all was the dirty men. Professional dancing is very suggestive and sexy, from the clothes you wear to the way you move. Many many times I was in very uncomfortable situations. I always had to have a wing man to try and save me because every night something happened even if it was just a guy hitting on me to much. In LA it was hard for me to find a wing man since I didn't know many people and this particular night I couldn't find anyone to 'protect' me. When I got to the club and knowing no one was there for me, I couldn't face it. It was the final straw, I was tired of living in this Salsa world.

Another reason was that i was dating a wonderful, sweat, loving, and very NORMAL guy from Salt Lake, whom I ended up marrying. I wanted to be with him way more than I wanted this life so I moved to Salt Lake and shortly after got engaged.

My decision to leave dance had nothing to do with my love of the music or the movement of Latin dance so I continued dancing from time to time (but with my hubby as my wing man). I would often get recruited to join various dance crews and i would really really want to but I never did. Eventually we began having kids and you can forget the late night that Salsa demands! 

So now you can understand my reaction that day at the Y when i heard that music playing! I had never heard of Zumba but I knew various Latin artist were making it big back then like Ricky Martin, Shakira. JLo, Santana, etc. I didn't go to class that day, but i asked the lady at the child care about it. She said it was so much fun so I made plans to go the next week and every Wednesday at 6:30 for over a year!  Sheila was amazing! Her energy was contagious! She was everything a Zumba instructor should be and she was popular too! Classes were about 50 or more people every week. I never made it to Sheilas front row because I only went once a week and couldn't compete with all the others who knew every step perfectly. I was technically a better dancer than them but that doesn't matter in Zumba especially in Sheila's class. Sheila just wanted everyone to have fun, technique didn't matter. I busted my butt every week in class, sweating like crazy, breathing hard between songs. But I never wanted a water break because I didn't want to miss one minute. But it took a while to get to that point. My first zumba class, I was only in there for ten minutes before the child care came to get me because Jada wouldn't stop crying. They tried their hardest to help with Jada but it probably took 3 months before I was able to do my first full class.

At this time, my husband graduated law school but the economy was horrible and he couldn't find a job. So we made the dreaded move...into my moms house. I continued to go to the Y but Sheila's Y was to far. She was in East Cobb and I now lived in Tucker. So I started going to the Ashford Dunwoody Y and there I met Marquetta Dupree. Tuesday mornings at 10a. Her class was very different than Sheilas but equally packed. Marquetta didn't talk during class whereas Sheila had a mic and tried to make people laugh the whole class. Both styles are acceptable to Zumba. Sheilas routines were very simple and super easy to pick up and Marquettas were quite a but more complicated but she was a great cue-er and once you learned the move it felt so AWESOME! 

My very first time in Marquettas class she brought me up to the front with her for a song. I told get I didn't know the routine but she told me to just follow along. I made my way through it but after the routine the entire room clapped for me (they do that for everyone but i didn't know that yet) and it felt amazing! 

After a few months i couldn't go to her class every week bc my son was home preschooling. But i still went to the gym often and tried to go as often as I could. One day I was late to class so i decided to lift weights instead. After the zumba class was over, my friend from class, Denise, walked into the weight room. I asked her how class went. She told me I should become an instructor. I laughed and told her I did not have enough energy to do what Sheila and Marquetta do for a whole hour!  Plus i figured i was too grouchy to be in front of all those people. I mean all zumba instructors I ever saw smiled the whole class!

But our family was struggling and I was always doing odd and end jobs to help pay the bills while raising our two kids.  I decided to go for it.  I had to wait three months before a Zumba Certification Course was local.  During that waiting time, the wonderful Sheila became my mentor!  She taught me about 15 of her routines so when I became licensed, I could start teaching right away.  And I did.  I got licensed on November 14, 2011 and my first class was November 15th.  Two people showed up, and one was my sister.  I was devastated  I had marketed my class like crazy!  Well, about a month of pitiful classes, I met Eric of Eric's Fit Lab and Karen of Mercer University.  Both offered me jobs to start in January and both changed my zumba life!  In May 2012, Eric turned over the Zumba program in Tucker to me making me my own employer!  Again this was another major change in my career.  He turned over an extremely successful program and all I had to do was keep it running!  I will forever be grateful to him for that opportunity!

Since then, I have worked and taught in many locations, done many parties, bridal party events, Girl Scout meetings, elementary school functions, and much more.  Zumba, the last two and a half years, has allowed me to help support my family.  I am so grateful for all these people I mentioned above and the level of impact they have had on me but who I haven't mentioned yet are all my students.  So many of my crew have been dancing with me for over two years.  They are so loyal and kind to me.  They have become my friends whom I look forward to seeing once, twice, or three times a week.  I couldn't be where I am without them, those in the past or those who dance with me today!

Now you know all the details.  You know ALL about come to class and allow me to get to know YOU!  My goal is to help you have a good time!  I have all types of people in my classes...all types of race, size, gender, and age!  Zumba is for everyone!  I just ask a few things...bring me your energy and smile!  Get ready to hoot and hollar.  Get ready to laugh at yourself.  Get ready to make friends.  Get ready to feel apart of a community.  Get ready to loose some weight.  Get ready to discover a new type of fitness that could change your life like it did mine.  Get ready to learn to dance even if you don't  think it is possible.  Expect the unexpected and you will do just fine!


  • Zumba BasicZumba Basic
    License to teach regular Zumba® classes.
  • Zumba Kids & Zumba Kids JrZumba Kids & Zumba Kids Jr
    License to teach the custom-designed kids program that blends dance-fitness routines with fun games and high-energy music.
  • Zumba Kids & Zumba Kids JrZumba Kids & Zumba Kids Jr
    License to teach the custom-designed kids program that blends dance-fitness routines with fun games and high-energy music.