Meet Joy Prouty. Perhaps the spunkiest woman at the Zumba Home Office, you can’t help but feel great when she passes you in the hallway. Always impeccably dressed with a gorgeous smile, she’s everything you want to be when you grow up (a feeling that gets stronger when you learn her interesting past).
Joy is the Director of Education for Programs and Trainings at Zumba – which means that she writes awesome new programs like Zumba Step. It’s fitting for her, as her life has been filled with dance and fitness.
Raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Joy was enrolled in dance school at the age of 6 because her mom had hopes that it would shake her tomboy ways. For Joy, that was the start of a life-long passion. By age 10, she knew she wanted to teach dance and did just that as a way to earn money throughout high school.
Then, one Friday the 13th in March, right before high school graduation, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity presented itself: Joy’s dance teacher took her on an audition at Radio City Hall for the chance to become a world-famous Rockette.
“The director called me the day after I graduated and asked ‘Can you be here in one day?’”, recalls Joy. “I packed my bags, got a plane ticket, landed in New York, found a dancer who needed a roommate, and moved into my first apartment on 49th street between 6th and 7th avenues.”
For 3 years, from 1959-1961, Joy danced for the Rockettes, performing 365 days a year with up to 6 shows a day. It’s a time period that she describes as very happy and a great experience, a time when she met and performed for a lot of Hollywood stars, including Lassie the dog!
Eventually, Joy got married and settled into family life in Palm Beach, Florida. 3 months after her first son was born, she felt an urge to dance and began teaching a ballet-barre exercise class (yes, the same barre class you know of today is the one she taught over 50 years ago!). Thus began her amazing career in fitness.
“The thing that hooked me about fitness, even though I’m a dancer at heart and soul, is the emotional and physical impact it has on people’s lives,” says Joy. “People would tell me they felt empowered, good about themselves, and stronger. I was hooked.”
Before discovering Zumba Fitness in 2006, Joy taught full-time as a private fitness instructor, opening her own studio that focused on aerobics, stretching, and even high-intensity-interval-training. She also traveled the world as a Step Reebok ambassador, training people internationally.
But in 2006, while at a fitness-industry conference in Orlando with fitness associate Josie Gardiner, Joy stumbled upon a booth that would define the next chapter in their career. Petra Robinson, a friend from the industry who was running the Zumba booth, encouraged them to try a master class that was about to begin, taught by Zumba creator Beto Perez.
“I had so much fun. I came out of the class and said to Petra, ‘Hire us to write a program for older adults’”, says Joy. “We shook hands and that was it. Zumba Gold came to life less than a year later.”
Joy has since co-authored several books and choreographed and starred in over 25 videos and DVDs for Zumba.
And she’s not just a preacher for fitness. Joy actually puts what she says into practice. To this day, she still exercises 5 days a week. She’s at the gym every morning at 6:00am. Her advice? Find something that works for you, but keep in mind that strength training is hugely important for everybody.
So, at a time when most people Joy’s age are considering retirement, she’s eager to keep on going.
“I love, love, love my job,” says Joy. “I feel so blessed. At this stage in my life, to be working and feel so passionate is wonderful. It’s been a crazy adventure.”
And at the Zumba Home Office, we thank our lucky stars to be part of her wild ride.