As soon as the music starts, she takes the stage. The lights shine bright and all eyes are on her. She starts dancing, and then it starts. The room erupts with laughter and smiles as Zumba instructor Chelsi Kitchen leads the group through the first routine.
Kitchen, a first-year graduate student in the University of Indianapolis physical therapy program, has been teaching Zumba at UIndy for four years and for seven years total. Kitchen said she started teaching Zumba at UIndy when she substituted for someone once, and the students enjoyed the class so much that the Campus Program Board asked her to come back.
“I thought it would be fun to teach a class at school, since I was certified, but I never imagined that it would turn into a regular gig,” Kitchen said.
The process of becoming a certified Zumba Instructor can take a little bit of time but can have great results. Kitchen took Zumba classes for a year. When she felt comfortable enough with the steps, she traveled to Chicago to attend a Zumba workshop.
There, Kitchen was shown some dance steps, and had to put together a routine using those steps and then demonstrate that she could teach the routine. Once she completed the task, she was given her instructor’s license.
“As a Zumba instructor, I can join the Zumba Instructor Network, and they will send music and dance routines as well as promote me as an instructor in the Indianapolis area, “ Kitchen said. “However, I didn’t join because there is a fee, and I am a college student, [who] wants to save money.”
Kitchen credits her undergraduate studies as an exercise science major with helping her to be a better instructor. She feels that knowing about the body allows her to better explain the benefits of Zumba to her classes.
Senior exercise science major Jaclyn Schindler, who has been attending the Zumba classes since her freshman year, attests to Kitchen’s ability to relate to her students.
“She [Kitchen] really makes sure the routine is doable for everyone who attends,” Schindler said.
Kitchen said her favorite part of teaching Zumba is that she enjoys giving people a great workout while having fun. One of her favorite Zumba experiences was teaching her high school football team.
“The boys thought that it would be easy, and instead they were out of breath and had a hard time,” Kitchen said.
Kitchen not only teaches Zumba to UIndy students, but also teaches classes at Our Lady of Greenwood Church. She also hopes to expand her classes to the faculty at UIndy.
“One of the school nurses approached me and asked if I could teach a class to the faculty after they get off work,” Kitchen said. “I think it’s really cool that the faculty and administration want to have me teach a class.”
While Kitchen does not plan to teach Zumba forever, she has enjoyed the experience.
“Zumba has been great in helping me through college,” she said. “And I plan to maintain it for as long as I can.”