Islanders are discovering the highs of dancing with a little attitude — and subsequently becoming heart healthier and more buff to boot.
Island Athletic Club is in the midst of kicking off their newest group exercise program, “Bodyjam.”
The new release happened in conjunction with a fundraising and awareness effort around HIV and AIDS sponsored by the Dance4life campaign. Dance4Life International Foundation works with partner organizations around the world to create a global impact on HIV.
Health clubs around the world are participating in the fundraising effort through group exercise programs created by the Les Mills Company that include Bodyjam, Bodyflow, Bodypump, Bodystep, Bodycombat and Bodyattack.
Island Athletic Club members and non-members alike can check out a preview of the class for free this weekend at 4:15 p.m. Friday, April 25, 1:30 p.m. Saturday, April 26 and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 27.
Bodyjam has all the benefits of cardiovascular exercise, including burning lots of calories and when the 55-minute class kicks into performance phase, the heart rate goes up.
“Dance is great for improving coordination,” said Chizue Rudd, the group exercise program director at Island
Rudd teaches a variety of classes in the aerobic studio at the club and is enthusiastic about the benefits of the new Bodyjam addition.
A native of Japan, Rudd said she started her career in fitness with a background in dance.
“This type of class is my favorite because I used to teach the street dance and jazz styles in Japan,” Rudd said.
“I’ve been thinking about bringing this kind of class to the club for long time and am so glad that people are getting into it.”
Last weekend was the second series of classes for the kick-off of Bodyjam and the aerobic studio was packed.
Rudd said although the average age at the club is around the mid-40s, many of the group exercise folks are much older than that.
But the Bodyjam routine, Rudd said, is really designed to make people of all ages feel good.
“Even when you get older, you’re still you, and still have that spirit in you that can dance,” said Sarah Birger, an instructor of Bodyjam and other classes at the club.
“This class teaches hip-hop moves that you can use in a nightclub,” Birger said. “But, it also just gives you an emotional high, gets the blood flowing, the heart rate up and just makes the whole body feel good.”
Each Bodyjam routine focuses on moving through a wide range of planes and movement tempos to a variety of music and choreography which changes every three months to prevent repetition.
The choreography is designed to strengthen what dancers call the core, or the entire mid-section of the body including the abdomen, back, shoulders and hips.
If the core is solid and strong, the rest of the body will get a safe and effective workout.
Unlike the standard pre-mixed music for typical step aerobics or dance aerobic classes, the new Bodyjam class includes music that is the actual voice of the original artist with choreography designed by one of the foremost hip-hop artists in the country, Gandalf Archer.
Some of the artists featured in this round of Bodyjam music are Rhianna, Chaka Khan, the Freemasons, Mr. V and Timbaland, among others.
Three months from now, you may find yourself in a Bodyjam class moving to other dance styles like Latin, ballroom and B-boy to the sounds of Kanye West, Chris Brown, Wyclef Jean and Missy Elliot.
Dance styles from countries all over the world are used in the choreography and if you find yourself in another state or another country, you could participate in a Bodyjam class in a distant health club as they are universal routines.
Les Mills prides itself on creating routines with good music by passionate instructors who inspire exhilarating workouts everywhere in the world. The company’s classes are currently running in more than 11,000 clubs in 70 countries, with an estimated 5 million participants a week. It has been said that Les Mills is doing for group exercise what McDonald’s did for hamburgers.
Island Athletic Club is as current as the rest.
Last Saturday, five instructors led the 1:30 p.m. Bodyjam workout, looking smart and sassy in matching yellow
T-shirts with a peace sign insignia.
The class started with a group warm up that uses simple moves designed to work one body part at a time like shoulders, then chest, then hips.
The instructors then took turns leading the group through a series of uncomplicated but danceable sequences, previewing the movements to each song in a kind of rehearsal.
Each “rehearsal” is followed by a chance for everyone to take the movement to a higher pace, get the heart rate up and give a bust out performance adding one’s own personal style to the movement.
The pace slows briefly for a mid-class recovery phase before the action builds again to a second, sky-high peak. Finally, a funky cool down eases the dancers down to a slower heart rate and completes the class.
The instructors looked like they were having fun and they set a good example by each staying true to their own style and take on the movement.
Rudd is a very high energy, and a full extension type of dancer and showed the high-energy version of the routine. Birger kept up the low-impact, street-style with attitude, while another instructor, Jane Gerlach, took an athletic approach to the dance.
“It’s made me stretch as an instructor,” Birger said.
“It’s all about the sensations of dance and, as a teacher, staying fresh.”
One extremely muscular woman who apparently lifts a lot of weight told Rudd after the class that her inner thighs were sore for the first time in a long time.
And another woman commented on how loose her shoulders felt.
“Dance uses muscles you may have forgot about,” Rudd said. “And it is very freeing; and I think also a spiritual thing.”
Rudd and Birger said it’s important to wear the right shoes for dance aerobics. Running shoes are not a good idea as they do not allow the foot to move laterally.
They suggested dance sneakers, cross trainers or actual tennis shoes for the Bodyjam classes. Any shoe that has a “spin spot” or a smooth area at the ball of the foot for smooth turning and pivoting is good.
Rudd said this will be the first year the Island Athletic Club has joined the Dance4life AIDS awareness campaign.
“Next year, we hope to hold a bigger event for the campaign with an auction,” Rudd said. And she is also interested in bringing the dance campaign to the school districts.
“I would love to get students of all ages involved,” she said.
There is a Dance4life collection box located at the front desk for those wishing to contribute to the AIDS awareness campaign.
Regularly scheduled Bodyjam classes will begin in May. Look for days and times on the Island Athletic Club’s schedule of classes. Call 331-2582 for information.