Photo by April Jingco

Waterfront Champions: Meli Bless, We Move To Give

Meli Bless, We Move To Give Zumba Instructor. Photo by Adam Lu.

Meli Bless, We Move To Give Zumba Instructor. Photo by Adam Lu.

“Our goal is to allow people the opportunity to come and be themselves. Just be yourself and enjoy music with others.”


Meli Bless, Zumba Instructor with We Move to Give, on breaking down barriers to health and fitness

You might have seen a joyful gathering of people of all ages, shapes, sizes, and colors dancing as music wafted over Pier 62 last summer. The inspiration for it was sparked even before the new pier was built, back in 2019 when Meli Bless attended a meeting about transforming Seattle’s waterfront.

The plan was to ensure enjoyment of the waterfront to all of Seattle’s culturally diverse residents. “I said I want to be part of that,” said Bless, “because I am Latina, and I am also American. This is the land of opportunity, and it is so important that Friends of Waterfront Seattle are acutely aware of the diverse populations in Seattle.”

Working with outreach for Sea Mar Community Health Center, Bless is on a mission to remove socio-economic barriers to health, including fitness and exercise. So she founded We Move to Give, a project that offers free Zumba fitness/dance classes for people from all backgrounds, regardless of race, culture, gender, size, fitness level, and income. “We really believe that everybody should have access to fitness,” said Bless. “Money should not be an issue. Sometimes underserved populations don’t do fitness because they don’t have the finances to pay for a gym membership, and they don’t feel accepted; they don’t feel comfortable.”

“After holding classes online for a year during the pandemic, dancing in person with others under the sky on Pier 62 last summer felt like a release and a celebration,” said Bless. There were classes at all levels of ability from May to September, with change-ups of music and theme, like Soca, Pride, July 4th, and Filipino Independence Day.  “We had a whole class led by Filipino instructors,” said Bless. “We invited the entire Filipino community and we even had people from Bremerton that took the ferry to come dance with us.”

“Our goal is to allow people the opportunity to come and be themselves,” said Bless. “Just be yourself and enjoy music with others.” That atmosphere of acceptance and openness can be life changing. People who’ve attended We Move to Give classes have shared stories of what it feels like to dance with others for the first time since completing chemotherapy, or how dancing helped them find emotional resilience to face profound life challenges.

“We have so many nice experiences that happen organically when you’re doing programming like this, because you never know who’s going to show up,” said Bless. “We have tourists. We have people from all over the world. And then we also have people that were not even aware that the city offered these things. They were really excited to be able to come to an open space and be themselves. Because there are no expectations but just to have fun and dance.”

The We Move to Give crew at Pier 62 in 2021

Zumba Class on Pier 62.

Free Zumba on Pier 62 was a very popular summer program in 2021. Photo by Tosin Arasi.

Support this work

Through partnership, Friends of Waterfront Park and organizations like We Move to Give are creating an inclusive and accessible waterfront where everyone is welcome. Learn how you can be a part of a growing community that supports this important work.