Jazzercise – The New Black

Jazzercise is the New Black

by Lindsay Dreyer — Oct 14, 2009 (the link above will take you to the original post site)

Read this great article about Jazzercise and you too will be convinced to give it a try! I know you will LOVE it! (especially if you are a girl 😉 – rachel<3

When most people my age think of Jazzercise they envision a room full of middle-aged women clad in pink Spandex leggings clapping and singing along to “Physical” by Olivia Newton-John. In fact, I can remember my mom skipping off to Jazzercise for her mid-afternoon workout—leotard, legwarmers, hi-top Reeboks and all.

Even though Spandex leggings are currently back in hipster fashion, times have changed since the Jazzercise craze of the ‘80s. This unique fitness/dance fusion program, which was founded in 1969 by Judi Sheppard Missett, who danced professionally with Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago, is experiencing a renaissance. And these days, it’s definitely not for the athletically challenged. In fact, it’s becoming popular in dance studios.

It’s not surprising considering the idea for Jazzercise began inside a dance studio. It was 1969, and Missett was teaching regular jazz class at the Giordano Dance School in Evanston, IL. Missett, who also studied theater at Northwestern University, found it difficult to retain students, but she wasn’t sure why. “So I interviewed them,” she explains, “and these particular women said, ‘Well Judi, we love the class and you’re a strong teacher, but you’re teaching the class like we’re going to go on and become professional dancers like you are, when in fact we don’t want to be a professional dancer, we just want to look like one.’” It was then that a light bulb went off in Missett’s head.

In order to cater to the students who loved dance but didn’t want to pursue performing careers, she turned the class away from the mirror and began mixing simple fitness exercises with Giordano-based jazz dance choreography. The results were immediate; by her third class she had over 60 students. Missett then took her fitness class out to Southern California where it took off. She stopped performing professionally and devoted her life to developing the Jazzercise technique. Over the next 40 years, the program grew and evolved into what it is today—a heart-pumping, calorie-burning mixture of Pilates, yoga, kickboxing, and strength training bound together by jazz dance choreography.

Since the program’s inception, most classes have been offered at recreational or fitness centers, but lately many dance studios have jumped on the Jazzercise bandwagon. Denise Wagner, artistic director of Wagner Dance & Music in Gilbert, AZ, added a Jazzercise program to her studio this past summer and so far the experience has been positive. “As an artistic director, I love to see dancers doing what they love to do—dance,” she explains. “And Jazzercise goes with our studio like peas and carrots.”

We all know (or should know!) that dancers and dance teachers need additional cardio vascular exercise. Missett believes that a 60-minute Jazzercise workout 3-4 times a week would do the trick, especially for those who already love jazz. With new combos every 10 weeks, all of which are still choreographed by Missett, Jazzercise aims to keep things fresh while reaching across many levels and ages. Classes are offered in Lite, Body Sculpting, Personal Touch, Express, Step, Circuit Training and Junior.

For dancers who are trained in jazz, the most comforting thing is that they’re already familiar with the style and terminology before setting foot in the class. “The kind of jazz choreography that I incorporate into Jazzercise is very Giordano technique,” says Missett. “That’s what I know and that’s what I learned.” In fact, she teaches every year at the Jazz Dance World Congress, which was founded by Giordano in 1990.

Jazzercise cardio exercises include classic jazz steps like grapevines, jazz squares and kick ball changes. It sounds easy, but when done quickly, repetitively and with a hint of Giordano stylization, these simple moves become shockingly difficult. Unlike regular dance classes that stop and start, Jazzercise is one continuous stream of movement, another reason it is becoming so appealing to artistic directors who want to get the energy level up in their studios.

For studio owners the benefits go beyond the obvious improvements in health and stamina; Jazzercise is a great way to increase business, especially when enrollment is down. Not only can you attract new students, but you can also appeal to people who are already in your studio on a daily basis—moms. “It is a perfect opportunity for the moms of our students,” reveals Wagner. “Typically we hear someone say, ‘I used to dance or I always wanted to dance.’ We suggest they register for Jazzercise.”

Just like any other dance technique class, choosing a Jazzercise instructor should be a selective process. “A knowledgeable instructor is essential for Jazzercise,” says Wagner, who attributes the success of the new program to her teacher Sara Medina. “When hiring a teacher we look for someone with extensive teaching experience and passion. The students look for someone they can trust and someone who inspires them to do their best.” For Missett and the rest of the 8,000 Jazzercise instructors around the world, the inspiration comes from helping others stay fit while having a great time.

These days it seems like everything old is new again, including Jazzercise. All you need is a positive attitude. Spandex leggings and Olivia Newton-John tunes, on the other hand, are completely optional.

For more information, visit Jazzercise.com.

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