Today, it's undeniable: Jazzercise is a worldwide empire, spanning more than 1,800 locations and 32,000 weekly classes across the globe. It's also hip; gone are the leotards and legwarmers of the 1980s, replaced with a high-intensity blend of cardio, strength training, kickboxing and power yoga performed to hits by chart-toppers from Shakira to Justin Timberlake. The class formats, which vary according to different toning goals, are just as diverse as the program's move set, with recent additions such as Fusion, Core, and Strike broadening the workouts' variety and application. Instructors cultivate a noncompetitive atmosphere where all exercisers are welcome regardless of age, build, or fitness background. This sense of community keeps Jazzercise devotees coming back, but so too do the results; benefits ranging from weight loss and boosted core strength to increased flexibility and stress relief.
Jazzercise's continued success can be traced to the innovation of its founder, Judi Sheppard Missett. While teaching jazz dance in the 1960s, she decided to step away from tradition by offering an experimental class that allowed her students to simply dance without the judgment of mirrors or the constraints of rigid technique. Little did she know that this ?just for fun? class was the prototype for what would become the Jazzercise sensation.
The Social Canvas's founder Francesca Bessett is dedicated to inspiring students and supporting local businesses through art classes hosted at area watering holes. During group classes, she guides students through step-by-step painting instruction as they swill cocktails and color their canvases with masterpieces ranging from landscapes to abstract designs. There are also theme nights scheduled throughout the year, including classes dedicated to recreating Van Gogh's "A Starry Night," among other famous paintings.
The house lights dim, and stage lights begin to brighten. As they rise, so do voices from a huddle of children at center stage. Their voices ring out clear and clean, unhindered by heavy instrumental accompaniment, a homage to the songbirds on Glee. In fact, this stage is set by Desert Sun Performing Arts' class of the same name. At Glee class, kids harmonize and move to Top 40 hits and Broadway classics. The class is one of the performing-arts offerings at the dance studio, which also holds classes in contemporary dance, ballet, jazz, lyrical, and tap.
Rather than allowing its students to learn photography in the comfort of an air-conditioned classroom, Misty Mountain Photo Tours coaxes them out into the wilderness. Serving a dual function as guides and instructors, professional photographers illuminate the technical basics and creative applications of DSLR cameras in an outdoor setting. Then, during hands-on tours to locations such as Saguaro Lake, they show students how to apply what they've learned to snap photos of wildlife and majestic desert landscapes.
As a 23-year-old junior, Tom Hatten didn’t spend his evenings at the raucous parties or ice-cream socials associated with college life. Instead, he’d spend the waning hours of his evenings waiting by the dryer for the last batch of towels before collapsing into bed. In the morning, he would lug them to Mountainside Fitness, the gym he opened as a student that he has thrown all his energy into maintaining ever since.
Today, the humble 4,800-square-foot space has bloomed into nine gyms that average a sweeping 41,000 square feet. Tom’s vision of creating a friendly neighborhood gym that greets each guest with a warm towel underscores every decision he makes for the different locations, from the colorful kid-care spaces to the entertaining group fitness classes. Personal trainers plan regimens tailored to each client, helping them lose weight, build muscle, or target the muscles that will help build a better golf game. Clients can create their own routines with the help of cardio and weight machines, or explore the different amenities at each location, such as saunas, rock-climbing walls, and indoor basketball courts.
At Inner Vision Yoga, yoga isn't just a form of exercise, it's a lifestyle. The company hosts more than 100 classes a week across two locations, with a style?hot, vinyasa, yin, kundalini?to suit any type of yoga devotee. What's more, the classes are divided into four tiers, ranging from "soothing and powerful" to "it's a workout", so newcomers can easily identify classes that will help them build a foundation for future practice. The center even offers a kids' yoga class where students ages 5-12 can strengthen their imaginations, as well as their bodies.
In addition to classes, Inner Vision Yoga educates the next generation of yogis through teacher-certification programs. The calendar of events also includes week-long yoga retreats, which are packed with activities and workshops and held at exotic locations such as Japan, the Caribbean, and the primate enclosure at the local zoo.