NAME: Jacqueline ‘Jackie’ Zamora
CITY, STATE OF RESIDENCE: I’m actually from the Dominican Republic. I was born there but raised in Brooklyn, New York. Now I live in Gaithersburg, Maryland.
PROFESSION: I run a dance fitness program for children and adults with developmental differences called ZamDance.
Tell us a little bit about it.
I started the program in September of 2013, so close to four years now. Since I’m from the Dominican Republic and I love to dance Merengue, we teach them a little bit of that, some Hip Hop, I’m also a street dancer, pretty much dance club music. We do exercises like jumping jack and we do strength training like planks, burpees, push ups, sit ups, you name it.
How did you start working with special needs people and what inspired you to start your dance program?
When I came to Maryland in 2005, I started working with a camp called the Jewish Community Center (JCC). I just learned to understand that they needed love and I felt that once I know this I wanted to be part of that love. Then I started subbing for the special needs school in Montgomery County and I had an amazing connection with them. I just know how to work with them. It was something natural that happened, that I didn’t know I had. So then I became a one-to-one assistant teacher for a private school called the Ivy Mount School. The music teacher wanted to start a dance musical. She asked me to choreograph some dance pieces because she knew I had a dance background. So when I saw them on stage, I knew that I needed to start something with them because dance really makes them feel so free. I can see the joy in their eyes and in their smiles and the way they were moving. I knew that they had some talent. So I said to myself why don’t I just start my own dance program and see where this takes me?
In a few words, how would you describe yourself?
I have a lot of compassion for people, I have an open heart. I’m just a person who sees the world differently and I want to embrace the world.
What are some of your favorite hang our spots here and New York?
Well, I would say in Brooklyn, in New York period, I love hanging out in the village. I grew up in New York so my places were pretty much the lesbian bars in Manhattan, like Henrietta Hudson. Here, the Rio Guapo’s, I enjoy going there for some margaritas.
I love nature so I also come the the park to mediate and to connect with the earth. Pretty much any park I can find in Maryland. Anywhere that my heart wants to go I’ll just go there.
Do you have any guilty pleasures?
I try to stay away from pizza but because I’m from New York I like pizza. Usually. I go and buy pizza just because I grew up around good pizza. It’s the sauce. That sauce, no one can make that sauce like a New Yorker. It’s not sweet sauce, it’s homemade. It’s just different. And then the crust, because it’s made from good water, has a different taste.
Do you have a favorite quote?
“Love has its own qualities and one of the quality is that love understands.” – Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi
Who is your biggest influence and why?
I would say Ellen DeGeneres has really touched my heart. When she came out, there’s something about her, a compassion and love that flows out of her eyes that made me feel like I have to follow a path and I have to follow my heart. Every time I watch her show, even though she’s very successful, she struggled, you know? I’ve struggled so much to be here, where I am right now, and I look up to her. I also look up to my Guru, Shri Mataji, who taught me compassion. She taught me to believe in God, to believe that silence is everything, that silence is power. This silence that I learned and experienced made me fearless.
What do you mean by silence made you fearless?
When you close your eyes and you become thoughtless, you’re inner child starts speaking to you. It’s a soft voice that you hear and that inner child is so powerful. Even if it has a soft voice it wakes you up inside, like a light bulb.
What’s your favorite event?
The ZamDance events! I’m just kidding. My favorite events are the gay pride events because that’s where I feel free to be around my people, to be around my brothers and sisters so those events are very important to me.
Do you have any regrets in life?
Yes I do. I guess I regret not opening up about certain things in my life when I was younger. My life would have been a little easier if I would have communicated about my personal life to certain people then. But at the same time I feel like it had to happen this way because it was part of my growth.
Do you have a favorite lesbian celebrity?
Like I said, Ellen because she’s changing the world. She’s bringing that compassion to the world through her jokes and even through her strength, her power, her Ellen.
Any fun facts you want to tell us about?
Dancing is my passion so, just dance! I have a program that really deals with dance and I have a population of kids who love to dance. It’s a fun thing to do because dancing actually opens your heart. It’s a universal language and it’s expressed in so many different ways and I would say it’s a fun thing to do for yourself. I’ve introduced that to special needs because I know they’re absorbing that joy and that love. And it’s a lot of fun.