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Graduating seniors reflect on time as rec sports Zumba instructors

April 24, 2023
<p>An MSU student participates in the Zumba class on March 28, 2023. Political science prelaw senior Jocee Schwass and international relations Olivia Antal lead the classes on Tuesdays from 9:15-10:15 p.m.</p>

An MSU student participates in the Zumba class on March 28, 2023. Political science prelaw senior Jocee Schwass and international relations Olivia Antal lead the classes on Tuesdays from 9:15-10:15 p.m.

Photo by Sonya Barlow | The State News

If you find yourself in Holmes Hall on Tuesday night after 9 p.m. you’ll hear loud music blasting from Room C105, home of the rec sports Zumba Cardio Dance class

At the front of the room are instructors, international relations senior Olivia Antal and political science-prelaw senior Jocee Schwass

The hour-long class consists of 16 songs broken down into four sets of four. After the first four warm-up songs are played, participants take a minute to a minute and a half-break before coming back together to finish. The last two songs of the class are for participants to cool down before ending with a stretch. It's held from 9:15 p.m. to 10:15 p.m.

“There's no right or wrong way to Zumba, as long as you're moving, you're doing just fine,” Antal said. “We're up here to cue you and kind of demonstrate moves and stuff, but if you don't like it, change it. If you want to do something else, go for it. It's really just kind of like a dance party … (We) really just want to make it a safe and encouraging environment for everyone to work out and feel their best.” 

Antal and Schwass, who graduate in May, joined the Zumba class as members when they were freshmen and were eventually trained to teach the course

Antal has been involved with the class since her first semester at MSU after participating in a Zumba with her roommate at the time. Shortly after, Antal inquired with the rec sports staff about becoming an instructor. Antal got her start as an intern for the class before moving into a teaching position

Schwass said she also started attending the Zumba class in Holmes Hall during the first few weeks of her freshman year. Like Antal, Schwass became interested in teaching the course, but that was put on pause due to COVID-19. She started teaching last year as a junior.

“I used to dance all through my childhood, in high school,” Schwass said. “When I came to MSU, I didn't want to dance competitively and then I fell upon Zumba and it just perfectly kind of scratched that dance itch that I didn’t get anymore.” 

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International relations senior Olivia Antal welcomes the Zumba class before it starts. Political science prelaw senior Jocee Schwass and international relations senior Olivia Antal lead the classes on Tuesdays from 9:15-10:15 p.m.

Class coming to an end

Due to logistical reasons, Antal and Schwass’ Zumba Cardio Dance class is ending after the spring semester. The final session will take place Tuesday, April 25

“I am trying to get all the classes in spaces that are actual, gym facility spaces, so, it could potentially be in other dorms, but Holmes – it's just a lot of extra legwork to get that room taken apart and put back together,” MSU Group Exercise Assistant Director Bianca Guess said

One of Antal and Schwass’ goals for this semester is to hit 100 participants. While they have yet to reach that number, they’ve come close a few times and have one more opportunity to do so

“Going back to me and Jocee taking the class as freshmen, we would consistently hit over 100 people. That was the norm,” Antal said. “Obviously, the more people at a group fitness class, the better. You really do feed off of people and their energy and it really does push you to do better. … So, we kind of wanted to hit 100, just to kind of come full circle.” 

Guess said she receives a lot of positive feedback on the class and its instructors from participants

“It has one of the highest attendance rates on campus,” Guess said. “So, I mean, it's popular. It's fun.” 

How students can participate 

To partake in Zumba and other group exercise classes, students need to sign up for a free rec sports membership using their MSU ID

Guess said students with questions or those wanting to get involved with instructing a course can contact her directly via email. Those interested in learning more can also follow the MSU group exercise account on Instagram

Schwass said she wants to emphasize that there are many great, free group exercise classes on campus available to students, including cycling

“The other instructors are amazing as well,” Schwass said. “I just want to shout out like the other group exercise people … We pay for our rec access in our tuition and this is part of it and it’s free.” 

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An MSU student participates in the Zumba class on March 28, 2023. Political science prelaw senior Jocee Schwass and international relations Olivia Antal lead the classes on Tuesdays from 9:15-10:15 p.m.

The value of Zumba and other fitness classes

While there are dozens of fitness classes offered through rec sports, Guess said Zumba is simply fun and lowkey

“You don't have to necessarily have any skill, the room is dark so nobody can really see what you're doing,” Guess said. “There are no mirrors, so you (don’t) look at yourself and you think that you look terrible – there's not the option for that.” 

Some benefits of group exercise classes are relieving stress and bringing people together, Guess said.

“I've gotten a lot of information about people just having a hard time connecting and finding friends,” Guess said. “That's a simple, easy little community.” 

Schwass echoed Guess and said Zumba is a good way to ease stress levels and build a sense of community.

“I knew for that hour, all I was going to do was just dance, have fun, be with my friends, and then whatever was going to happen, happened after,” Schwass said. “That's what's so great now about teaching these classes, is that I get to have that same stress-free moment and guide other people through it as well.” 

Antal was also a competitive dancer growing up and said she was able to gain a sense of team environment again in college through Zumba

“I think it is one of the most consistent things I've done and it really kind of sparked my love of group fitness and teaching,” Antal said. “I met people through it. I met Jocee through it … and then, also, it would scratch my dance itch.”

Schwass said she and Antal encourage participants to do what is best for them and their level of comfort

“So, if that's jumping and dancing around with us, that's fine,” Schwass said. “If it's just getting away from the homework, that's fine

All in all, Antal and Schwass agreed teaching Zumba has been a highlight of their time at Michigan State University. 

“To get paid for it, it's insane, because I love it so much. I would do it anyway,” Schwass said.

“It's always been just, so energetic and fun and it really is just like a great way to spend my Tuesday nights,” Antal said. “I always leave feeling on top of the world.” 

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The MSU Zumba class poses for a photo in Holmes Hall on March 28, 2023. Political science prelaw senior Jocee Schwass and international relations Olivia Antal lead the classes on Tuesdays from 9:15-10:15 p.m.

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