My Evolution of Kitschy Exercise

by brittany on October 21, 2011

If you were to call me between 8:15 and 9:15 a.m., most mornings you’d go straight to voicemail because I’d be at Jazzercise.  I’m serious.  I’ve been jazzercising for 2-1/2 years at the Portland studio and I think you should try it.

A few details first.  Portland’s Jazzercise is on East Burnside and 18th (up in those top windows, above), and the building isn’t much to look at from the outside.  Honestly, the main building’s interior isn’t so hot either, but the studio is very nice, bright, and clean.

You also should know that “jazzer” is a prefix for almost anything.  When I first began jazzercising, Michael and I used to joke about my jazzerskirts and jazzershoes.  Much to our shock, my first JazzerTogs catalog arrived in the mail.  We couldn’t have even dreamed up such a fanciful name for the dancey, sparkly workout gear.

Also, I refer to my little clique of ladies at the center as my jazzerpals.  This is no joke.  If you spend an hour a few mornings a week with people, you get acquainted.  I know the names of a few of my jazzerpals, and I definitely know who has dogs and what breeds they are.  We’ve even attended a party at a jazzerpal’s house.  How about that?

Most importantly, the teachers are excellent.  Each one is different (jazzerteacher who executes the moves impeccably, jazzerteacher who dances it up and tells funny stories, and sexy jazzerteacher, for instance), and I enjoy the variety of styles.  This hour of exercise flies by much faster than at one of those scary, impersonal, stinky gyms, plus I look forward to seeing my jazzerpals each day.

It may seem strange for someone who won’t dance in public (me) to jazzercise for exercise, but there’s a history.  It all started when I was 19 or 20 and at a party.  I heard myself say, “I’ve really been wanting to sweat to the oldies,” even though I’d never entertained such a thought in my conscious brain.  As luck would have it, one of my fellow partygoers was able to swipe his mom’s Richard Simmons VHS tapes for me, and it was downhill from there.  I worked out with Richard on and off for over a decade–through college, while I was a horse trainer, through grad school, and after I moved to Portland.

In 2007, I created a site-specific contact paper cut-out installation of a living room in a Portland gallery and played tapes of me sweating to the oldies on the TV.  The show was titled, “Gone Sweatin,” and people were invited to come in and use the space to exercise.  It offered the warmth of a home without all the actual clutter.

I maintained regular workout hours for the duration of the show, in case people wanted to join me.  After that long month of public Sweating, I’d had it.  I needed to find something new.  Jazzercise is very similar to Sweating to the Oldies, but with an actual live group of people.  It was time to switch my allegiance, though I’ll never toss my stack of Richard Simmons VHS tapes and I’m aching to be invited on a Cruise to Lose.



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