When in Doubt…Shake About: Recognizing Zumba Fitness as a Method
for Fostering Social and Physical Leadership in Female Elementary School Students

Presentation and masterclass by Deanna Paolantonio (Canada) -
Master in Dance Studies, Dancer, Teacher, 
Educator, Fitness Instructor.

Having begun her formal dance education at age four, Deanna Paolantonio has explored many facets of dance both as a performer and student. Throughout her time as a performing dancer Miss.Paolantonio has trained in the styles of ballet, jazz, hip hop, musical theatre, modern, and most notably tap. While a love for dance performance has remained a central component of her life, Miss Paolantonio found her true passion within the realm of education – specifically dance education and curriculum instruction.

As an alumnus of York University’s dance department and concurrent education program Miss.Paolantonio holds her Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.Spec.Hons.), Bachelor of Education (B.Ed), and Masters in Dance Studies. She is currently pursuing Doctoral level studies at York University, continuing and expanding upon her Masters research.

Miss.Paolantonio is also actively involved on the world of fitness. She currently teaches various forms of the Zumba Fitness program to adults and children within her community. In conjunction with her advocacy for arts in the classroom, the experience of teaching a dance fitness form to members of her community has greatly informed Miss.Paolantonio’s understanding of the role dance can play, if ardently applied, in improving the physical, social, and emotional well being of individuals. Stemming from her experiences as a dancer, elementary school teacher, and fitness instructor Miss.Paolantonio’s interests are related to dance education and its influence upon community, student cognition and leadership.


Dance and fitness, although present as subjects in Ontario elementary school curriculum, have commonly been viewed as subjects of secondary importance in the delivery of a “proper” education. With the achievement of student academic success serving as the central goal for all teachers, a multitude of methods and theories have been devised to assist in turning that objective into a reality across school boards for all pupils. However, the majority of these pedagogical frameworks have paid foremost attention to sedentary study and little to no care for embodied practice.

This presentation advocates for a pedagogical approach wherein dance, fitness, and academics are integrated into the classroom. Focusing specifically upon adolescent girls this research provides an example for how the inclusion of dance fitness, via Zumba Fitness, into the elementary school classroom can assist in fostering a sense of leadership. The data collected is taken from a four-month ethnographic study, which took place in three grade five and six classrooms. Case studies of specific students, and general trends found in student responses, are presented as proof of four premises supporting the researcher’s notion of Zumba Fitness as a tool for cultivating leadership in adolescent girls. That, by educating their bodies as well as their minds, these girls are able to gain an increased sense of self-worth yielding positive social interactions with one another and enhanced motivation to participate actively in classroom tasks. 

Included within the presentation is the opportunity to actively participate in a lesson plan utilized as part of this research. In this way, participants will be able to physically experience the proposed teaching framework and assess their understanding of its effectiveness via their own kinesthetic responses.

- Introduction. 
  • Guiding questions of the research
  • Explanation of the study parameters/reasoning and purpose
- The Moving Female Body and Education
  • Brief history of physical culture and young girls in school
  • What is Zumba Fitness?
- Get Up and Move!
  • Sample integrated lesson with Zumba Fitness
- Assessing the Data
  • Four themes found to connect Zumba Fitness to leadership
  • General conclusions and concerns
- Closing
  • Questions and Comments from participants

Organized by IUGTE in collaboration with "ArtUniverse"