Jose Goncalves

To see Jose Goncalves  who I talked to about change teaching at his Zumba class, is to witness him in his zone of genius leading everyone to a mad frenzy of excitement. The deliberate changing of tempo in the class, can pretty much be likened to how Jose has changed several times in order to better himself and find happiness. Here is what he had to say when we caught up recently. 

TDK Tell me tell me about your early life: where was it when did you move etc  what is it that prompted you to come and live in England did something change 

JG: My parents who are Portuguese moved to Venezuela in search of a better life for my brothers and sisters, I was the happy accident that came along a few years later. I was a spoiled child  and not only by my parents ,brothers and sister but by a lot of members of my family also neighbours and family friends. 

Growing up was alright, but  as far back as I can remember I knew I liked boys. I wasn’t a popular kid at school I always liked to play with girls because I thought girl played nice but boys were playing football and other manly sports.

I had a hard time in primary and secondary school because I was bullied a lot for being gay or being too feminine so basically I hated it, and didn’t want to go to school most of the time. I wasn’t the brightest kid and I had lots of frustrations for not knowing why I liked boys and not girls it seemed wrong and I felt it wasn’t normal as if I had some sort of condition. This was made harder  being from Portuguese descendants  lots of family drama and everyone has an opinion about each others lives etc

I dropped out of school in my  second year of secondary school because I hated it and started to work full time with my dad till I realised I wanted more from my life and my future.  My parents were really strict, so I decided to stay  working  but finish my secondary school on Saturday only classes, and hopefully go to university  this was by far the best decision ever.  I have made good friends and my life started to change accepting myself more and I started to open up with my friends and tell them I was gay it was a big deal I was scared I was going to be judged, but it was fine then told my sister and she was very supportive.  With me being the happy accident, my sister effectively raised me, so it was like having two mums,  I guess my mum being an older mum, did not have the same energy as my sister. I am very close to her  and we always did things together and I would often stay at her home and look after the kids, my nieces and nephews that I love dearly as if they are my own kids. 

I finally finished my secondary school and straight away I enrolled in a University to study Administration and Tourism which was hard to finish because I had to work in my dad’s business and study in the evenings 6-10pm it was the only way as my dad wouldn’t allow me to study only, I had to work.

I loved university; I made lots of friends and I managed to graduate with a job placement but being gay in a mainly macho culture was very hard and I had to behave in a ‘manly’ manner so I didn’t see myself living in Venezuela, it wasn’t for me so I decided to move to Portugal, I was 21Years old when I landed in Madeira my parents Island and I thought to myself what is this??? I was in shock it was too rural and the island agricultural life meant  the teenagers moved abroad because there was no work, I managed to get a job after 3 month which was in the city and I had to work long hours… I wasn’t happy there I didn’t like the life, it was too slow and culturally very challenging I never stopped being in this catering job cleaning tables, washing plates etc. I keep looking for a job in shops but not successful.

A friend of mine told me about a course that the european community that sponsors people to get trained to became a professional waiter which I did and they paid for food transport and a salary that wasn’t much but to get paid for studying was not so bad meet new people I was kind of getting to the idea of maybe living in here its not so bad.


I always dreamt of living in England I used to watch TV  and educational programs from England and I used to love it, the idea of  living in a country that snows was the coolest thing. So with that in mind and being only  3hours away from the UK,  after 11 months in Madeira I decided to move here, another shock to system! I moved here in November landed and 5pm it was dark  and I thought to myself  ‘what is this? The weather, culture people’s behaviour was all a shock to me, but deep inside I felt good and for once in my life felt  I was in the right place… it wasn’t easy but my life journey was only beginning..  

TDK What are the major defining changes you have experienced?

JG Those  I have had experienced from my family cultural views and way of being gay and  living in a latin culture and my own personal life experience and all the challange I have encounter on my path.

But I have become stronger and I know what I want and where I want to be, and I am a big dreamer!

TDK Tell me about your early working career?


JG I have worked from early age from around 14Years old my parents were very strict 

and always showed me that I had to work for what I want. nothing come easy for me.

I have always worked with the public from catering to shop assistant to office work, and I still think I have not found my dream job, and I am still searching

TDK.Why Zumba? how did that begin?

JG Mario’s sister in law was always talking about how much she loved Zumba, that it was fun and based on Latin American Music and dance. Mario and I did not think anymore about it, but then we started going to the gym nearly everyday ( after we got happy and fat lol) I saw the advert for Zumba fitness and a couple of days later we come to the class at the gym and we were so happy to listen to the music  and the instructor was really fun. After the class she asked me if I was an instructor and I said no, she said you should become one but no way I wanted to become one as I never thought about it….then  we did another class at the gym with another instructor and again she thought I was an instructor and told to become one she could guide me through etc.. and again I said no but she went behind my back and  told Mario to book me in as she knew I could be a great instructor and I still said no, But Mario enrolled me on the course and I went to the course still thinking I am not going to teach but here I am  6yrs later and I love it.  

TDK Where do you see it going now, that there are new forms of dance type group exercises emerging?

JG I am still teaching and trying to maintain my class and keeping it fun and challenging, it is hard to keep people coming thru the door but I work hard to make everyone enjoying exercise and wanting to come back, Zumba as a brand are always reinventing and bring out new forms of exercise to keep us instructors motivated and the public keep coming back.  Many different exercise programmes have come and gone, but Zumba is still going strong after 18 years. There will always be new dance programs coming up to motivate the public.

TDK Are you planning to take this up? 

JG At this point I am happy with my Zumba program, I wouldn’t say I would never join another dance program but for the time being i am saying no.

TDK.Did you like sports at school

JG I didn’t like physical education, only a few things like volleyball or running that was about it. 

TDK Do you keep a journal?

JG I used to when I was younger but then I gave up! there is no time to sit and write about

life as it is better to get out there and live it.

TDK.what are you reading that I should be reading?

JG The truth plain and simple! .

TDK Who do you know that I should know?

JG My wonderful partner, my best friend and boyfriend Mario

TDK:What does change mean to you?

JG: I like change, change is a  challenge,  it makes you  come out of the comfort zone we sometimes set ourselves in, changes are always good.

TDK:If there is one thing about your life that you could change what would it be?

JG That I could have been there for my nieces and nephews in the most needed moments.


Jose is currently running his  Zumba Class at Chalk Hills Academy, Luton  Wednesdays 7:30pm  Details at

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