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 ZIN members can learn 4-5 songs from a licensed Zumba Jammer “ZJ” that you can teach the next day in your class.
Now let me introduce the next Jammer in the series “Interview with A Jammer”, Dionne Thomas!
I met Dionne around 5-6 years ago through a mutual friend in Fresno. My friend was bringing Dionne to Fresno for a Zumba Toning class and to perform at our Zumba in the Club event.
While I didn’t get to take her Zumba Toning class, I did get to dance with her at Zumba in the Club.
From the minute Dionne started dancing, I could not take my eyes off of her. She had so much FLAVOR and style!
I was completely entranced!
She became one of those instructors I looked up to and wanted to be like when I instructed my classes.
Since then, I haven’t gotten to dance with Dionne as much as I would like, but I do admire her from afar and have enjoyed watching her journey as a Zumba Jammer.
Here is what I was able to learn more about the ever-fabulous Dionne.
- 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 Dionne: Dionne Thomas
Lake Elsinore, California
Choreo Zumba Jammer
I am a full-time Zumba instructor
- SeasonofFitness: Why did you decide to become a Zumba instructor?
ZJ Dionne: I woke up in the middle of the night back in 2008 and saw the Zumba infomercial. It looked like so much fun I knew I had to try it. When I went online to order the DVDs, I noticed the link to “Become an Instructor” and I decided to do that instead.
- SOF: Who and/or what inspired or helped you become a Zumba Jammer (ZJ)?
ZJ Dionne: I had my own studio for a while (Freedom Fitness Studio) and I hosted a few Jam Sessions with Alena Groopman and Cheryl Hall, when she was a ZJ. I witnessed firsthand the benefits the ZIN members got from the day. That’s when I fell in love with Jam Sessions. Then once, after a Zumbathon, ZJ Eric Aglia told me (yes, TOLD me) I needed to apply to become a Zumba Jammer the next time they had a call. He gave me the boost of confidence I needed.
- SOF: Describe a jam session in only 3 words.
ZJ Dionne: FUN, Inspiring, Educational
- SOF: What was your favorite song to choreograph/teach and why?
ZJ Dionne: I loved doing “Perm” by Bruno Mars. It’s not a song I would typically do, but when I sent out my pre-jam survey, ZIN Member Anthony Castillo Marmolejo requested it. When I listened to it, it was one of those times when the choreography came to me so easily. I call that “choreo from Heaven.” It’s a great blend of dance and fitness, it’s super fun song, and it allows everyone to put their personality into it. That’s what I want from every song in my class.
- SOF: Where do you find your songs that are not from ZIN?
ZJ Dionne: I get a lot of song suggestions from the pre-jam survey that I send out to the ZIN members. I also have Apple Music and get a lot of suggestions based on my favorite songs.
- SOF: What is your ‘go to’ dance move?
ZJ Dionne: I seem to end up doing a salsa rock back of some sort.
- SOF: What’s your favorite rhythm to dance to and why?
ZJ Dionne: I LOVE SALSA! It makes me come alive. I see vibrant colors and even though I don’t speak Spanish, I can feel the passion. I love the rhythm pattern and it’s just HOT!
- SOF: What rhythm is the most challenging for you and why?
ZJ Dionne: Samba is the most challenging for me. I love trying it, but I’m thinking too much. That’s never good. LOL I just need to let go and feel it. I’m working on it.
- SOF: What’s your biggest pet peeve as an instructor?
ZJ Dionne: I get frustrated when people give up before they start. Sometimes people come in with the notion that they won’t be able to do it and they want to hold on to that. I get it. It’s hard to try something new and step out of the boxes we put ourselves in. It is my mission to create a space for the people who don’t know they are dancers and to make the class fun and easy-to-follow so everyone feels successful. I just want people to give it a chance.
- SOF: What other formats do you teach (Zumba and non-Zumba)?
ZJ Dionne: I absolutely LOVE teaching Zumba Toning!! It has been my favorite specialty since 2010.
I also teach a class called The GROOVE Method at The Golden Door resort.
- SOF: Do you have any embarrassing/funny ZJ moments?
ZJ Dionne: We have SO much fun at jam sessions! So, every jam has funny moments. But one time while jamming in Glendale we were doing the final run-through and at just the right moment in the song everyone threw up the perfect cue. It’s no secret that I LOVE cueing. Oh my gosh… I lost it. I fell to the floor and had trouble catching my breath. It was a moment.
- SOF: What are your hobbies outside of Zumba?
ZJ Dionne: Is eating a hobby? I just enjoy spending time with loved ones or getting lost in a great book. I love being outside for a nice hike or walk in the park.
- SOF: What inspires you to stay a ZJ?
ZJ Dionne: I love what we do as ZIN members. We help people connect to their joy through dance. We help people forget about their troubles and connect with each other. We are love warriors and we serve the world in such a beautiful way. I am committed to serving those who serve. I believe together we are making a difference in the world.
- SOF: What advice do you have for participants to get the most out of your sessions?
ZJ Dionne: Register early so you can get the playlist email in advance. Listen to the music before the jam if you can. Come to the jam expecting you WILL be able to teach the routines right away. It is my goal that you will leave ready to teach. And, expect to have a blast!
In a TEDx Talk Dionne presented, she said, “We all are dancers,” and as an Instructor and Jammer, she feels that she really “just allows people to dance.” Dionne encourages each one of us to, “take off the mask and peel back the layers. Get back to the core of who you are … because who you are is just right.”
I want to say a big THANK YOU to Dionne for letting me get inside her brain. I cannot wait to jam with her in the future. If you haven’t had a chance to attend one of her jam sessions or classes yet, you definitely should! Here is her website to find out more info.
“When we dance and we open ourselves up in front of other people, we’re giving them permission to do the same.” – Dionne Thomas