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Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014 12:01 am

Not your mother’s Jazzercise

Sweat to today’s hottest music

From left, Springfield Jazzercise instructors Sue Davstok, owner Lisa Schaefer, Tiffani Saunders and Ashlyn Hood

Like almost everyone else I know, I have long struggled against my sofa’s seductiveness as well as my upbringing of bedtime snacks.  But the thought of facing down an army of cold, grey ellipticals sucks the life – and any desire to exercise – right out of me.

But I do love to dance.

So, with both support and peer pressure from a friend, I agreed to take one class at Jazzercise Springfield this fall.

What??!! My mother did Jazzercise. Even if I love to dance, I’m not doing that. Besides, joining would be a commitment of my time; I might not like it; I’ll look stupid; I don’t have any clothes to wear…

Despite all of those silly thoughts, I went to that one class and the effect was profound: I was reminded of my younger self and how much FUN dancing is to me; I noticed everyone else was having fun, too.

Terri Broccardo, a senior woman who can move – Jennifer Lopez has nothing on her – makes the moves her own. “I started out just because I like to dance,” she says, “but then I like the combination of fast [and] slow, weights, and mats. … and I love the top-40 music.”

Deb Willsie also loves the music. Deb joined at her 14-year-old daughter’s suggestion as something they could do together. “So I thought, if I can have an ‘our thing’ with my 14-year-old, I’m going to do it,” she says. “And then we really liked it.”

Willsie recognizes that Jazzercise has a kind of dated reputation. In fact, according to the website, it was founded in 1969 by Judi Sheppard Missett, “who turned her love of jazz dance into a worldwide dance exercise phenomenon.”

“But it’s not that,” she says. “It’s changed.”

Ashlyn Hood, an instructor, notes that “people have this idea that… we’re all about the ’80s and sweatbands and leotards … that’s totally not what it’s like. I think sometimes some of our new routines are getting harder and harder as each set comes along. They’re challenging for me. And if as an instructor I think it’s challenging, then I definitely feel our students will find it’s new and innovative and different.”

Sherry Day, a nurse and lifelong fitness expert (in my eyes), started Jazzercise when her friend suggested they try a class. Day was pleased to find out that Jazzercise makes her sweat. “If you’re sweating from head to toe,” she says, “you know you’re getting a great workout.” She likes that the instructors are trained, and she points out that “the workout is very zone specific.”

Each session is comprised of cardio-based dance, strength training and stretching, all choreographed to “today’s hottest music.” This targeted approach proves successful – and keeps at least me interested. Losing 18 pounds this fall by burning 600 calories per hour of Jazzercise (and eating right) has kept me interested, too.

Lisa Schaefer, owner of Springfield Jazzercise Studio, points out that anyone can do Jazzercise: “Knee replacement, hip replacement, old, fat, young, you know, it doesn’t matter. If you want to have fun, there’s no mirrors, nobody judges you. You just come and move and have some fun. Then the pounds shed off and the smiles happen.”

Jazzercise is for adolescents, too. In March, the Springfield Jazzercise Studio will offer Junior Jazzercise for children ages 6 to 11, where children can “experience the joy of physical movement as they dance their way through specially choreographed, age-appropriate routines to today’s most popular music.” Schaefer says the classes will teach children coordination, strength and endurance, nutrition, and the importance of physical fitness. Junior Jazzercise will be available on Friday evenings after the new Express Class at 4:45 p.m., which begins Feb. 7.

Amy Spies writes from Chatham, and aspires to dance away 10 more pounds in 2014.

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