While teaching jazz dance in the 1960s, Judi Sheppard Missett 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. In these sessions, she began infusing popular dance moves with specific fitness workouts to forge a distinctive blend of cardio exercise, strength training, and dance instruction. Little did she know that this “just for fun” class was the prototype for what would become the national fitness sensation known as Jazzercise.
Today, Jazzercise takes its aerobic techniques from a variety of sources that include jazz dance, hip-hop, resistance training, Pilates, yoga, and kickboxing. The class formats, which vary according to different toning goals, are just as diverse as the program's move set. Two-time Dancing with the Stars champion Cheryl Burke is a big fan of the improvisational routines, although her advanced skills aren't needed to get the most out of classes. Instructors cultivate a noncompetitive atmosphere where all exercisers—with the exception of those marked as cursed by jazz-hand palm readers—are welcome regardless of age, build, or fitness background.
The acrobatic instructors at Pole LaRotic aim to enhance confidence and unleash vertical vixens in their students with classes tailored to all ability levels. Newbies to the world of pole dancing can learn the fundamentals and improve sassy struts in a Beginner Pole class, which covers basic dance movement, floor work, and strength training. Pole Spin sessions focus solely on mastering different whirls and twirls, including the simultaneously challenging and sensuous "Fireman Smells Chili" technique. Aerial tricks, leg-grip maneuvers, and combination spins are reserved for accomplished students of the pole. Students are advised to wear shorts and tank tops, as skin provides a better grip than spaceship-covered footie pajamas. Consult the schedule to begin plotting your vertical ascension.
The quintet of instructors behind Overdrive Martial Arts & Fitness line their walls and wardrobes with a litany of honors, including black belts in poekoelan tjimindie and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu alongside teaching certifications in Krav Maga and Zumba. Their approach to self-defense—summed up in the tagline "there are no rules in real life situations"—rests on a foundation of fitness and situational awareness. Before imparting the dos and don'ts of kicking your way out of a street fight or hedge maze, each introductory class emphasizes using verbal techniques to diffuse situations before they escalate. Should chatting fail, the team equips students with a blend of techniques developed by Brazilian martial artists, Malaysian kickboxers, and Israeli Mossad agents.
Embodying the same philosophy of avoiding physical confrontation if possible, kids’ classes blend Krav Maga and Jiu-Jitsu to help children develop the coordination to dodge blows, and the confidence to walk away from a fight while wearing white after Labor Day. The rigorous routines have the added benefit of burning calories and toning muscles for practitioners of all ages, pairing strong minds with strong bodies.
Certified yoga instructor Katy Branstetter's fitness career took off when she joined her high school's cheerleading squad. She continued encouraging athletes to b-e-a-g-g-r-e-s-s-i-v-e when she went to college, where she began developing an interest in yoga and Pilates. After discovering barre-based exercises and their ability to chisel toned glutes and abs, she decided to share her knowledge to help others whip into shape, while providing jobs for out-of-work ballet barres. At Neighborhood Barre, she and her team of dedicated instructors create a welcoming, judgment-free atmosphere as they lead students of all abilities through fast-paced, intense workouts that combine dance conditioning, Pilates, and isometrics. They help both men and women carve their bodies into dancer-like sculpted physiques through low-impact isometric movements and stretches, emphasizing proper alignment to protect lower backs and spines.
Premier Athletics uses dance, gymnastics, and tumbling to teach lessons that go beyond landing a somersault or winning awards. A network of 30 training facilities located across several states, Premier Athletics imparts discipline, self-confidence, and coordination to students of all ages. Classes teach tumbling and gymnastics to students 5 and older, and the Little Explorers program teaches dance, sports, and gymnastics to toddlers in a nurturing environment. At The Studio, instructors teach dance in the form of ballet, tap, hip-hop, and Irish step dance. Instructors also embrace dance as a calorie-burning workout and a great way to shake off ants that are crawling on you, helping sculpt bodies through tap-, Latin-, or jazz-centric fitness classes. Premier Athletics can guide aspiring young gymnasts into the world of team or individual competition.
In his anti-gym, affectionately known as “the box,” CrossFit HTK’s head instructor Mark Landis draws out the dedication in his students with his CrossFit functional-training curriculum. Functional movements prepare the body for everyday tasks, unlike traditional routines that really only prepare people for running in place or reading Tolstoy while riding a bike. With two decades worth of physical training under his purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Mark and his crew lead brawn building routines for classes of no more than ten students—large enough for peers to inspire each other, but small enough to lavish individual attention. Sessions safely push students to the point of quivering limbs as they hoist barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells and endlessly leap onto plyometric boxes.