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Life changing Experience.
Soul stirring Fitness from the inside out.

Globally renowned as the most successful Group Fitness instructor, ever. Once disabled, former Joffrey Ballet dancer, Juilliard School alum and more,
Josette Tkacik unequivocally inspires and empowers all to live their greatest legacy.
Featuring Zumba™ Fitness, Transcend by Josette and MORE

As Featured in:

A Class for the body, mind and SOUL.

Declared a medical Miracle for self-healing Rheumatoid Arthritis, Santa Barbara Local hero, top 3 Digital author on DailyOM; Congressional award recipient and Zumba rockstar, Female Entrepreneur powerhouse Josette inspires thousands as they flock to her class for the special amazing experience, of sweat, joy and community.

Meet Josette

My life is undeniable evidence that we can heal disease naturally and create the life of our dreams. I am passionate about sharing this with everyone I meet. Healing RA was just the beginning for me. They don't know the power in our souls.

Press

"Ask anyone in Santa Barbara about Zumba and they will simply say 'Josette'." -Santa Barbara Magazine

Santa Barbara’s Dancing Queen inspires thousands to live their greatest dreams. 

Trail-blazing a new evolution in wellness thru mind*body*soul fitness

  • Documentaries
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  • In the NEWS
  • Awards and Honors

Listen until the end as JOSETTE is the ONLY zumba Instructor referenced in the entire Interview!

Click Here to Listen

  Zumba. Zumba began as a mistake: aerobics teacher Beto Perez brought the wrong music to class, then improvised a dance routine to go with it. For his students, it was more fun than work — and it eventually grew into one of the biggest fitness brands in the world. PLUS for our postscript “How You Built That,” how Alex McKenzie is hoping to upgrade the menu of your neighborhood ice cream truck by offering exotic flavors, high fat content, plus low-guilt options for the health-conscious.

One of the most dramatic  stories is that of Josette Tkacik, who three years ago was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an autoimmune disease that causes intense pain and inflammation of the joints.

The mother of one from Santa Barbara, California, says: ‘I just woke up one morning in such pain that I couldn’t move. My joints were incredibly swollen.  

‘I was rushed to hospital and within a week I was diagnosed with severe RA. I was told I’d have to go on medication, but I said no as I was trying for a child.’

Josette, 44, a former dancer with the New York City Ballet, decided to throw herself into exercise.

‘I’d done Zumba before and knew it made me feel good. My husband thought I was insane as I could barely get out of bed.

‘For the first few months, I just moved very gently but then I started to find it easier. Within  18 months, all I had was swelling in my ankles in the morning.

‘I have never taken drugs, and my doctor tells me I am one of a tiny minority to have gone into complete remission without them. 

‘I follow a vegan diet, but I am in no doubt that Zumba is what helped me the most.

‘I now teach about 150 students a day, many of them with physical problems. We all have our challenges, but we can use that  to help the next person. Nothing is impossible.

‘Get to a Zumba class, get happy for an hour, and you will be amazed with the changes.’

Santa Barbara’s Dancing Queen”

The city of Santa Barbara has a problem. Its largest public meeting space, the Carillo Ballroom, isn’t big enough to hold the throngs of people who show up daily to dance their hearts out at the local Zumba class. That’s right: Up to 300 people pack into the glorious space to Zumba every day. Seem crazy? It’s even crazier when you realize it wasn’t long ago the instructor, Josette Tkacik, would walk into her classroom and see a grand total of three attendees. Spend a little time with Tkacik, though, and you’ll understand that she’s no ordinary instructor—she’s an inspiring beacon of strength, and proof that mind over matter is a prescription that can work. 

A lifelong dancer, the New York-born Tkacik studied classical ballet with prestigious companies like the Joffrey and American Ballet Theater, leading master classes with the likes of Mikhail Baryshnikov. In 2010, she discovered Zumba, a fitness program that blends many different types of dance with high-impact cardio movements, and her heart sang. After hundreds of hours in Zumba classes and studying under the guidance of pro Zumba instructors, Tkacik became a licensed instructor, blazing a trail in South Florida with her unique, exciting classes. Her energy was infectious, and students flocked to her classes to dance their asses off. 

At the height of her success, tragedy struck. Two years after the birth of her son, Tkacik developed rheumatoid arthritis and was virtually unable to move. The lively, spirited mom was replaced with a wheelchair-bound woman who couldn’t hold her son. Doctors prescribed a complicated matrix of drugs to quell the symptoms, and told her that her dancing days were over. Tkacik looked deep inside herself, deciding to flaunt her doctor’s orders and refuse the drug treatment, opting instead to alter her diet, completely cutting out sugar, alcohol, gluten and meat. At precisely this time, she was being courted by the city of Santa Barbara to come west and head up a Zumba program for their community. She interviewed for the position with the help of a friend who carried her into and out of the building where her meeting was held. She agreed to take the position, knowing full well that she could barely move. What propelled her? “Everything I did was for my son. I looked at him, and I thought, I can’t tell him that I can’t pick him up, that my body’s not working.”

Her first class is Santa Barbara was attended by three people, and she was still unable to move. But against all odds, her method of healing herself worked, which she attributes to the strength of her faith, and the joy that dancing brought to her body. She slowly came back to life, and her class of three Zumba students swelled to 50, then 100, and on its busiest days the ballroom where her daily classes are held is packed, wall-to-wall with dancing bodies.  They come through word of mouth, seeking Tkacik’s unique blend of energizing encouragement and physical enlightement, a Zumba trademark. She’s built a successful, prosperous career out of doing what she loves, but six years in, does she ever get tired of it? “Never. Never, never, never!  I set the intention before every class to simply share the love and non judgment that helped me heal—I want people to feel that euphoria.” That energy is so palpable, and I never ever get tired of it.”  If you’ve ever taken a Zumba class and thought, “I love this so much I want it to be my life!”, let Tkacik’s story inspire you to delve deeper, see what you’re made of, and spread the love. It’s obviously changed her life, and taken her from being a participant to a becoming a leader who radiates with positive energy and touches the lives of every student she teaches. 

As the first part of the year winds down, and our commitment to resolutions slackens a bit, Tkacik’s story of commitment and desire inspires us to keep at it, regardless of barriers that might be in our way. And if we’re feeling especially stuck? We’ll follow her lead and dance.

 

Rheumatoid Arthritis Doesn’t Rule My Life

Josette Tkacik began dancing before she could even walk. Later in life, she studied classical ballet with several notable companies, including The prestigious Joffrey Ballet School in New York and The Metropolitan Ballet of St. Louis, where she was a company dancer. In 2010, a friend suggested she try her first Zumba class. “I remember laughing and being exhausted at the same time. But there was something more….this was a release! This was magic!” Hooked, Josette attended every Zumba class she could find.

In 2011, Josette excitedly became a Zumba Instructor and with the mentorship and support of amazing instructors, she infused her experiences of dancing, training, traveling and her passion for life into class. Zumba Fitness felt like home to Josette.

Within one month of becoming licensed as a Zumba instructor, Josette was suddenly stricken with incredible pain and swelling in her legs. She woke up one morning realizing she couldn’t walk—both knees were the size of grapefruits. The pain was unbearable.

After hours in the ER, Josette went to several specialists who eventually diagnosed her with advanced rheumatoid arthritis, a degenerative and painful disease that has no cure and may cause full disability at a rapid pace.  There was no explanation as to why she was suddenly struck and doctors told her she’d be fully disabled within a couple years if she did nothing. They offered a list of toxic pharmaceuticals and steroids to help slow the progress, but she declined to take them. Her entire world had been turned upside-down.

She spent months in spiritual darkness, seeking answers for the pain she was experiencing. She could not complete simple tasks like walking or brushing her teeth, and the swelling had quickly moved to basically every joint in her body. Even though the disease prevented her from carrying and playing with him, she had one light at the end of the dark tunnel, and that was her son. 

“Everything I identified with as a person was gone,” Josette recalled. “I was no longer a dancer, a woman, a mom – I could not even stand on my own. No one, not any doctor or friend, could help me, but I knew that I was going to be a better mom for my son.“ Because of her love of her son, Josette sought to build her own path.

To the bewilderment of her family, she accepted a job teaching Zumba fitness for the City of Santa Barbara. Though management hadn’t met her in person and had no idea she was barely mobile, Josette was hired based on her dancing background and many recommendations.

“In my first class, there were three students, and I stood in one spot moving my hips.  Slowly I started to be able to move my feet. I don’t know how, and there is no way to fully describe it, but my heart so passionately wanted to move that I think my body followed.”

Tough times followed. Six months into the job, the city of Santa Barbara contacted Josette to let her know they weren’t sure about the Zumba program since she was only pulling in a few participants. They threatened to cancel her class, but she begged them to keep her on the schedule. She was living on borrowed money and her disease kept her in bed for the majority of the week. “Please, just give me 6 more months,“ she begged. And they did. 

Josette started to get better. Her classes started to grow. “I danced, and I shook, and I blocked out negativity. What has happened in the last 3 years is nothing short of a miracle born out of my love for Zumba fitness,” Josette reflected.

By 2013, only two years after she began teaching, her average class size was 100 students. She now makes a successful living teaching Zumba classes full-time to about 200 students every day of the week and is in complete remission from Rheumatoid Arthritis since late 2012.

“I don’t have plans to stop dancing; I spend my time doing whatever I can to inspire others, especially with fellow instructors to share the message of Zumba love–because it really does change lives. I am living proof.”

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