Instructor · Interview With a Jammer Series · Zumba

Interview with A Jammer – Melissa “Meli” Kirkwood

I have discussed Jam sessions previously and why you should go to them in my post here. But, as a quick reminder, a ZIN Jam session is a 3-hour workshop where Zumba instructors that are ZIN members can learn 4-5 songs from a licensed Zumba Jammer “ZJ” that you can teach the next day in your class.

A ZJ as described by Zumba is:

“A Zumba Jammer is a ZIN Member who specializes in Zumba choreography and has been officially selected and licensed by Zumba Fitness, LLC (Home Office) to host ZIN Jam sessions. Only licensed Zumba Jammers may lead a ZIN Jam session.”

Now let me introduce the next Jammer in the series “Interview with A Jammer”, Melissa “Meli” Kirkwood.


I met Meli at one of my very first jam sessions in Fresno, Ca. All I remember thinking was, “This lady is trying to kill me!” and I loved every moment of it. Her high energy and enthusiasm captivated me. I felt like I could relate to her style since I taught high intensity classes.

She was sweet but stern. She did her best to keep the jam session running without coming off as mean.

Since then, I have gotten to know Meli better and hosted lots of her Jam sessions in Fresno. I hope to host her this coming winter in Orange County (be on the lookout, instructors).

She has also become a Zumba Jammer coach to train others in becoming Zumba Jammers and is a Zumba Convention presenter. I’m happy to call her my friend and mentor.

I had asked her some questions and am glad to share her answers below so you can get to know her better too.

  1. Basic Facts – name, location, type of Jammer (i.e. choreo, salsa, etc.), where you jam, how long you’ve been an instructor, how long you’ve been a jammer, “day job” or other work you do besides Zumba

Zumba Jammer Meli: I live in the Bay Area in California and I’m a choreo Zumba Jammer. I don’t have specific territories that I jam but I’ve been focusing this year mostly in the West Coast, if you want to jam with me just send me an email! I’ve been a Zumba instructor for 11yrs and a Zumba Jammer for 6yrs. My main “big girl” job has been Design and Social Media Marketing but since a few years ago I’ve been solely on a Fitness Path: Trainer, Manager, Content Creator and Jammer.

  1. SeasonOfFitness: Why did you decide to become a Zumba instructor?

ZJ Meli: I wanted to explore and I was really shy so I wanted to see if that will let me break my shell…it surely did!

  1. SOF: Who and/or what inspired or helped you become a Zumba Jammer (ZJ)?

ZJ Meli: My inspiration was my two first Jammers: Bernadette F from Florida and Bianca A from Florida

  1. SOF: Describe a jam session in only 3 words.

ZJ Meli: ZIN-PARTY! Energy. Networking

  1. SOF: What was your favorite song to choreograph/teach and why?

ZJ Meli: I don’t think I have a favorite…I mean, my body moves to merengue by default but I like to challenge myself to different rhythms/genres. I think we live in a diverse life and I’m constantly growing and adapting to change every single time. I like challenge.

  1. SOF: Where do you find your songs that are not from ZIN?

ZJ Meli: EVERYWHERE! But software wise? Spotify and iTunes but, inspiration? Even if I go to a restaurant and I hear something exciting I will Shazam or use any app to discover what song it is.

  1. SOF: What is your ‘go to’ dance move?

ZJ Meli: Merengue March? LOL! you can Merengue march ANYTHING!

  1. SOF: What’s your favorite rhythm to dance to and why?

ZJ Meli: Same with the song, my body just moves to great beats, good vibes and anything that is HAPPY.

  1. SOF: What rhythm is the most challenging for you and why?

ZJ Meli: Old School Hip-Hop. Being from South America we never listened to that genre and it is hard to choreograph since I feel it’s very technical and specific. A hip-hop dancer knows it’s basics and when you try to even do it, it doesn’t look authentic in me.

  1. SOF: What’s your biggest pet peeve as an instructor?

ZJ Meli: Music stopping in the middle of the class or when doing events changing iPods…that’s a big NO NO!

  1. SOF: What other formats do you teach (Zumba and non-Zumba)?

ZJ Meli: I have taught a lot: Pound, Piyo, Hustle, Cardio Sculpt, Firestarter, Boot Camp types or workouts, Aqua, Kids etc. My current Status is: Strong by Zumba, Aqua, Firestarter, Cardio Sculpt and of course my Zumba Classes.

  1. SOF: Do you have any embarrassing/funny ZJ moments?

ZJ Meli: Yes! Lots! Especially when you are so into the song and you are in an “awe” watching people do the song and all of the sudden you cue them wrong and everyone is like…giving you the evil eye because you are wrong. It’s pretty funny and embarrassing especially, being the person that choreographed the song.

  1. SOF: What are your hobbies outside of Zumba?

ZJ Meli: I teach so much and I’m so active that I would say I enjoy doing “nothing”. Going to the movies, resting and laying on a beach are my favorite things to do. Brainless.

  1. SOF: What inspires you to stay a ZJ?

ZJ Meli: Seeing people rocking the routines in their classes and seeing the participants respond to the songs. It is a beauty when someone takes your product to their class and creates an incredible dynamic. I love everyone adding their personal touch.

  1. SOF: What advice do you have for participants to get the most out of your sessions?

ZJ Meli: Pace yourself. I love when people dance full out but I also love how sometimes you slow down and memorize every bit of the jam by soaking in the experience and information.


Definitely take her advice when she says pace yourself. Her sessions are high energy and will WEAR YOU OUT!

If you want to dance with her (which I HIGHLY recommend), find her jam sessions and events on her website.


Her motto of “Dance your Soul” really resonates with me and I wanted to pass it along to you as well.

Thank you, Meli, for taking the time to share yourself with us and I can’t wait to see you this winter!

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