For most exercisers, Jazzercise is synonymous with leotards, leg warmers, and plenty of jazz hands. (Is it even possible to say “jazz hands” without doing them?)
But for the exercisers who rock the more than 22,000 Jazzercise classes that take place across the United States each and every week, it’s all about (current) Top 40 tracks, the latest dance moves, and science-proven strength exercises.
“We’ve evolved a ton because we wouldn’t still be here if we hadn’t,” Shanna Missett Nelson, Jazzercise president, instructor, and the daughter of Jazzercise founder and CEO Judi Sheppard Missett. She explains that, while Jazzercise tends to avoid fitness fads, it constantly updates its choreography to reflect advances in both general exercise physiology as well as women’s health — which explains why Jazzercise now offers up multiple class types, blending dance with other disciplines, including kickboxing and strength training.
Back in 1969 when Missett launched Jazzercise, it was one of the first workouts geared specifically to women. The trained dancer wanted to bring jazz dance to the masses — and in an exercise-based format that would fill the huge gender gap that existed within the fitness industry.
You have to remember, back in the ’60s, women’s exercise was far from mainstream, and instead reserved for the fitness and forward-thinking fringes. “Just like it was then, our priority is for Jazzercise to be a place where everyone feels comfortable, can enjoy being active, and is accepted,” Missett Nelson said. “Our classes bring together women of all shapes, sizes and ages. We have grandmas dancing next to teenagers.”
In fact, Jazzercise’s 2017 campaign, called GirlForce, is all about getting younger generations exercising in a body-positive way, with all classes free to girls ages 16 to 21. “Women’s struggles with body image begin early on, and it’s so important that young women and teens have a place to belong and learn to appreciate their bodies in a fun, safe, and positive environment,” she said.
Want to check it out? Here, Missett Nelson shares four of her favorite Jazzercise moves, all of which you can do right from your living room if you please.
1. Weighted arabesque
Performed in class to the song “Mercy” by Shawn Mendes
Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and a dumbbell in each hand at your sides. From here, lift one leg just off of the floor to balance on one foot. Brace your core and hinge at your hips to tip your torso forward and raise your lifted leg straight behind you. The dumbbells should hang straight down in front of you, palms facing each other. Pause, then return to start.
2. Plank with knee tuck
Performed in class to the song “Something in the Way You Move” by Ellie Goulding
Begin in a high-plank position with your body supported on your hands and toes, hands directly underneath your shoulders. Brace your core so that your body forms a straight line from the crown of your head to your toes. From here, bend one leg to bring that knee into your chest. Immediately reverse the motion to return to start and repeat on the opposite side.
3. Side plank with bent lower leg
Performed in class to the song “Sorry to Interrupt” by Jessie J
Get in a high side-plank position with your hand on the floor directly underneath your shoulder. Step the foot of your bottom leg behind you for balance. Focus on bracing your core so that your body forms a straight line. Hold, then lower your hips to return to start, and repeat on the opposite side.
Performed in class to the song “Take Care” by Drake
Get on the floor in a low-plank position on your forearms with your elbows directly underneath your shoulders. Brace your core so your body forms a straight line from head to heels. From here, slowly bend your elbows so they flare out diagonally from your body as you lower your chest toward the floor. Once your arms form 90 degree angles, push through your hands to return to start, making sure to keep your body in one straight line.