Jazzercise in Woodbury Turns 21 Years Old—a Millennial Company In Every Sense of the Word

Laura Funk of Lakeland has been attending classes at Jazzercise Woodbury almost since it opened. “I joined with a friend of mine who wanted to get in shape after having a baby,” she says. “I’m still holding down the back corner [21 years] later.”

The funny thing about this story is that the same reason she kept coming when she was in her 30s is why she’s still attending in her 50s: “It’s fun. It checks that exercise box,” she says, and she’s now seen another generation of new moms and their friends come into the studio.

By no means is this indicative of the workout’s ability to both transcend and transform with the times—after all, Taylor Swift was barely alive in the ’80s, and her songs regularly appear on the workout list (which changes quarterly) in 2018.

Current music (think: everything from “Whole Lotta Woman” by Kelly Clarkson to “Cannonball” by ZZ Ward) pairs best with current dance moves, says instructor Cheryl Yakacki, who moved to the Twin Cities almost three years ago after studying and performing dance in New York. “The music is a perfect mix to kick your own butt.”

She’s quirky with her instruction calls, almost sighing “Ooo,” and “Oh my!” into her headset between calls to hit triple steps, throw your rhythm from left to right, and challenge not only your physique but your mind, too. It’s flirtatious and goofy, it’s fun and anything but serious, until you feel the oh-so-serious burn in your quads, glutes and arms, and realize the beads of sweat are dripping almost in time to “Boom Boom” by Iggy Azalea.

The 5:15 a.m. class that Yakacki leads most Fridays is its own community. Attendees range in age from 20-something to 70, and many are working professionals like Funk, trying to get in their daily sweat before the commute, or just naturally early risers. In Woodbury, however, it’s the 9:30 a.m. classes that get back to what made Jazzercize ahead of its time even in the ’70s: pioneering child care for $2, a huge boost for those new and stay-at-home moms desperate for some “me” time.

The kids’ area is a small room off the reception area with a handful of age-appropriate toys. Instructor Leslie Stelling is a mother of two (her youngest is 18 months). She has memories of taking breastfeeding breaks with her toddlers in the kids’ room between classes. She works out and teaches four days a week at the Woodbury center, but says that’s it by way of exercise—and the results speak for themselves: She’s svelte, with ab muscles that peek out quietly but confidently between her Lycra workout pants and colorful sports bra. She’s the picture of fitness in the new millennium, and the moves she does are, too.

“Our most popular [class] format is Dance Mixx,” she says, a combination of cardio dance moves, some light weights and stretching, concluding with a healthy dose of ab work. The class is offered in 30-, 45- and 60-minute sessions at various times throughout the week, depending on the instructor. “I love that we incorporate strength-training into all of our workouts,” Stelling says, “because it’s so important, especially for women.” (Men are welcome and occasionally join classes at the Woodbury center, but most attendees are women.)

In the 1980s, while Jane Fonda was hustling in sweatbands and leg warmers, and Richard Simmons was sweatin’ to the oldies, Jazzercise also hit a peak. It’s evolved through the entrepreneurial acumen of professional dancer and choreographer Judi Sheppard Missett, who started teaching her dance-based workout classes in 1969. Today, Jazzercise is an estimated $100 million fitness empire boasting more than 8,000 franchisees across the globe; that said, the fact that it’s a household name carries a stigma (you know—images of shimmery leotards and big, permed hair).

Every three months or so, corporate Jazzercise releases a new song list and workouts associated with each song. There are typically about 25-30 songs to choose from, and each instructor can customize her classes. “I’ve always loved challenging myself,” Yakacki says. “That’s what I love about Jazzercise: You use your mind while you’re working out, so you’re killing two birds with one stone—physical and mental.” Stelling concurs, adding you can make most workouts as challenging as you like simply by dipping lower, squeezing harder or lifting more.

Dance-based workouts are making a comeback—or arguably never went away—with workouts like Zumba, which has been popular for the past 15 years or so. It works because it has the mental and emotional effect of taking the “work” out of the “workout,” Yakacki says. While dance music is the core of all Jazzercise formats, there is absolutely no previous dance experience required. And just because it’s dance-based doesn’t mean the workout is less intense.

Every muscle group in your body gets a touch through the choreography of a typical class: “I touch on upper torso, glutes and abs,” Yakacki says of her Dance Mixx, and she makes a point of mentioning the muscle group as she gets to it in the choreography. (You know those hard-to-work lower abs? Try a bunch of high-knee stomps, side-to-side.)

Each class has a small strength aspect, and some (like Strength 30/45/60) allow attendees the chance to lift much more. The Strike format combines dance with kickboxing; Fusion is a combination cardio and strength. Interval is exactly what it sounds like: HIIT, which stands for high-intensity interval training (spurts of fast-pace cardio mixed with brief interludes of recovery, then repeat).

So check those stereotypes at the door, and check that fitness box for the day.  

Host a Dance Party
Looking for a twist—or stretch, or leap—for your next get-together? Woodbury’s Jazzercise instructors will work with you to craft a unique birthday party, or girls’/moms’ night out. “One birthday gal requested all Pitbull songs, so that’s what we crafted,” instructor Leslie Stelling says, adding that the space can easily accommodate up to 50 for parties.