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 interactive exhibits and programs compiled by the Pink Palace Family of Museums reinforce a mission that has stayed constant for 80 years: to "inspire people to learn how history, science, technology, and nature shape the Mid-South." Attached to Clarence Saunders' mansion built in the 1920s, the museum's permanent exhibits take an eclectic approach to chronicling the past, revealing everything from ancient fossils to contemporary southern history. Inside, visitors can chart the history of Memphis from the early Spanish explorers through the Civil War or walk through a replica of Saunders' original Piggly Wiggly—the country’s first self-service grocery store, and even see a shrunken head. Global adventures are chronicled on a four-story screen at the CTI-IMAX theater, and the Sharpe Planetarium explores the cosmos from the comfort of a 130-seat theater.
Traveling to east Memphis, one can discern the natural side of the Pink Palace Family of Museums. Lichterman Nature Center encompasses 65 acres of lush gardens filled with native wildflowers, trees, and wildlife. The center combines self-guided nature walks with plant sales and educational activities to expose visitors to the natural world.
When Jack and Marilyn Belz first stepped into a Los Angeles art gallery in 1968, it was their first step into a lifelong passion for Chinese art. Over the years, their collection grew so much that in 1998, they opened a museum that featured their expansive collection. According to the couple, "the intricate creations of Chinese artists rank among the most inspiring" to them. Visitors to the museum today find not only Chinese artwork from eras past, but also modern Judaica art.?
In January 2012, Amanda Gonzales and Edgar Mendez—a former principal dancer and choreographer for the Los Rumberos dance company—founded Madison Dance Studio to share their love of rhythmic movement with all ages. The duo and their team of talented instructors lead classes, including salsa and hip-hop, atop of a wood floor illuminated by floating party lights. In addition to helming belly-dance sessions, they channel Latin-inspired dance moves and global party beats in Zumba fitness classes. Amanda encourages ladies to confidently express themselves on club dance floors during her signature Hip Hop in Heels class.
After all hips have been shimmied and snaked according to U.S. government standards, students and instructors can rest atop the cushy sectional sofa while admiring the sky-blue chevron murals, which add a modern vibe to the room's exposed brick.
Named by Time Magazine as the most Authentic American Experience in Tennessee, the Stax Museum of American Soul Music is a state-of-the-art facility with films, videos, interactive exhibits, 2,500+ artifacts, and more to showcase the unique history of American soul music, and specifically that of Stax Records. Using video footage of sermons and early 20th-century gospel performances, the Roots of Soul exhibit investigates soul and gospel's close-knit relationship forged out of a mutual distaste for sea shanties, and a chronologically ordered stretch of 912 singles and 292 full-length albums adorns the winding Hall of Records. Elsewhere, the "Express Yourself" dance floor coaxes tapping toes and curmudgeonly steam engines to boogie along to continuous Soul Train footage, and inside the reconstructed Studio A, patrons glimpse the room where numerous Stax hits were recorded, accompanied by original instruments and samples of recording-session outtakes. Additional unearthed remnants include Albert King's Flying V purple guitar, a Mavis Staples stage dress, and Isaac Hayes's completely restored, gold-trimmed and fur-lined 1972 Cadillac El Dorado.
Most of the modern world is mapped—GPS devices capably guide people through entire road trips and atlases describe more terrain than most people could cover in an entire lifetime. While it's difficult to reawaken humanity’s sense of surprise and discovery, The Mid-South Maze is up for the challenge. Every year, the maze’s manufacturers spend months carving up their cornfield into clever patterns that, when viewed from the sky, might appear as a famed sports logo or the face of a long-departed pharaoh. On the ground, however, that pattern vanishes, leaving wanderers to use their wits to navigate the arching corn passageways.
The Mid-South Maze entertains with more than just its winding labyrinth. On Friday and Saturday nights in October, actors clad as ghostly apparitions haunt the herbaceous hallways of a spooky tractor ride. A giant jumping pillow launches kids skyward and gently cushions their falls, and a corn cannon fires ears of corn at targets up to 100 yards away. Anyone who hits a target wins a prize from one of the maze's sponsors and the right to eat nothing but popcorn balls until Thanksgiving.