Melanie Smith‘s passion for fitness prompted her to become a certified group exercise instructor in 2009; she started with Turbokick and then added Zumba in 2011. Her love for exercise continued to grow and she decided to add an indoor cycling certification in 2015. Her desire to connect with people through movement and music helps her motivate others to be their best selves. Smith believes exercise should be fun and therapeutic! 

Continue reading to learn more about this outstanding Recess instructor.

Recess: What does dance mean to you?

Melanie Smith (MS): To me, dance means freedom of expression. When you are dancing, whether choreographed or not, you are able to get lost in the music and move your body in whatever way feels the best to you. You are expressing how you feel at that exact moment and there’s something powerful at being able to express yourself through non-verbal communication. Whether it’s a night out with friends, dancing closely with a loved one, or in a fitness class, we are all expressing some sort of feeling when we dance.

Recess: How do you empower your female students to own their power through movement, in particular dance?

MS: My number one tip is to “just keep moving”! Your movements do not have to be perfect but it’s always best to keep your body going (hopefully in the same direction as everyone else) and eventually you will find your way. I always remind students that I am human and that I make mistakes too! Once we let the idea of perfection go, we are able to fully embrace the experience as well as the progress we make along the way. I can always tell when it clicks because they stop focusing so much on me as the instructor and zone in on themselves in the mirror. I can tell they are feeling the music and themselves! They are owning their sexy and their power and I love to see it.

Your movements do not have to be perfect but it’s always best to keep your body going (hopefully in the same direction as everyone else) and eventually you will find your way.


Recess: Do you have a memorable experience of how you may have transformed a student’s life through moving their body on the dance floor?

MS: Yes! Several years ago, a student told me that she recently had the best doctor visit she’d ever had and she credited it to taking my Zumba class for the previous year. I had another young lady tell me that coming to my Zumba class twice a week helped her when she was battling depression and anxiety. Being able to have a healthy outlet and dedicate 50 minutes to herself a few times a week made a difference for her and helped elevate her mood. The endorphins we get from movement are truly life-changing!

Recess: What is your number one tip for your students if they are new to fitness?

MS: Remember that fitness is a journey, not a final destination; honor wherever your body is on any given day. Try out several different instructors as well as formats; over time, you will find what works best for you and where you receive the most benefit. Often the benefit is more than physical appearance and weight loss. Fitness can be a mood elevator, a place where you find a community or a time when you are feeling like the strongest version of yourself.