When I say, “Jazzercise,” what’s the first image to pop into your head?
Is it a pair of neon pink Spandex leggings and/or a turquoise leotard that cuts high (like, really high) on the leg? Or do you see Jazzercise accouterments like leg warmers and sweatbands and those Reeboks with the two Velcro strips at the ankle? Or maybe your brain just likes thinking about rad Jazzercise hair.
I thought of all of those things when I first heard there was a Jazzercise studio in the Dana Warp Mill in Westbrook offering Jazzercise classes several days a week. Does everybody dress retro? I wondered. Will I stand out if I’m wearing modern-day (and totally not neon) gym shorts? Where does one even buy a leotard these days?
Update 1/7/2016: Jazzercise all of May for FREE. More on that
Turns out, I had it all wrong. While my perception of Jazzercise was certainly stuck in the 80s, the dance-based fitness program has done a fine job of keeping up with the times.
The jazz music of yesteryear has been replaced by modern dance tunes (no joke, Jazzercise is more up-to-speed on popular music than I am). And the classes are a blend of cardio, resistance training, Pilates, yoga, kickboxing and dance. (Of course, the downside of being a super-popular fitness program in the 80s is that images of Jazzercise’s past are hard to shake. Buy Jazzercise is workin’ hard to refresh their image: #thenewjazzercise.)
“We have a variety of formats, too,” said Wendy LeBlanc, owner of the Jazzercise Westbrook Fitness Studio. “Core, Dance Mixx, Fusion, Dance Mixx Interval, Fusion Interval, Strength 45 and Strength 60.”
See for yourself: Jazzercise High Intensity Interval Training (HiiT)
And these are high-energy, calorie-burning classes. Each song is its own mini-workout (and they’re the same at any Jazzercise studio. So if you’re traveling and you decide to pop into a Jazzercise class in Tampa or Boulder or Schaumburg, the workouts will be just like you did in Westbrook).
Of course, once I got over the whole it-ain’t-the-80s thing, I was really surprised/impressed by the diversity of the class. There were men and women ranging in age from 20-something to 60-something (I’m guessing, and have a tendency to be really bad at guessing ages, but let it suffice to say it was one of the most diverse classes I’ve ever been in. And I’ve been in a lot of classes).
Everyone was jumping, clapping and grapevineing to the rhythm of the songs, smiling and seeming to have a genuinely good time.
Let me say that again: They were having a good time. Exercising,
“We are so lucky to have the membership we do,” said LeBlanc. “It is such a great community. I think people love the music, the ability to make the workout their own (a super challenge or modify as needed), and the amount of fun they can have while burning calories.”
I didn’t look as smooth as some of the regulars, who knew the songs and routines by heart and made the class look like just another Monday night dance party. But it wasn’t too hard to learn the moves as we went (I was glad I chose a spot in the middle of the room, so I had someone else to watch no matter which direction I was facing).
And after class came to and end, while I waited for my breathing to return to normal and continued to wipe sweat from my face, I chatted with a woman who talked about all the pounds she’s shed since starting class – and how much healthier she looks and feels.
Darshana, one of the Jazzercise instructors, agreed. “I’ve watched people transform,” she said.
“That is one of the most amazing parts,” said LeBlanc. “People share their personal experiences with us. Whether it be from their latest doctor appointment, the fact they could keep up with a friend on a run…It is really amazing to be a part of.”
No Spandex leotard necessary.
The Jazzercise studio in Westbrook offers classes several days a week. $12 drop-in and monthly rates as well.