Jazzing things up always marks the right step with a group in North Myrtle Beach.
Thirty-nine people took part in the 9 a.m. Jazzercise class last Friday in the city’s J. Bryan Floyd Community Center on Possum Trot Road. The moves amount to more than just pivoting in place; it’s going left and right, up and down, turning around, stretching legs, waving, skipping, hopping a tad and giving every limb a turn and some independence, all in flexible unison in a social party setting.
Yes, some facets of the 1980s have come back, such as in music, TV shows and the like, but Jazzercise’s roots, with leotards, legwarmers and Olivia Newton-John getting “Physical,” continue evolving in this second decade of a new century, with new music, some longtime fans and new recruits as well.
Debbie Transou, the lead instructor in North Myrtle Beach, counted aloud at some points for pace, “1 – 2 – 3; 1 – 2 – 3,” then doubled their time to “1-2-3; 1-2-3,” and repeated those pairs of tempo for stepping.
Even weights worked their way into some numbers. In the first one, everyone held a 5- or 6-pound weight in a hand, and Transou’s oration made them feel lighter by counting out a routine: “1 – 2 – hold – repeat.” All the dancers filled both their hands with weights in another song to work on balancing on one leg at a time, with encouragement from Transou to hold the waist in and stretch other muscles.
Multitude of music
On the end of the fourth of five long rows of participants, Lee Dove of Cherry Grove Beach cheered and hooted, never running out of exclamatory enthusiasm during the 15 songs that made up the hourlong workout.
The mix of music ran the gamut, from Elvis Presley’s “Bossa Nova Baby” to Kenny Chesney’s “American Kids” to The Band Perry’s “Done,” which was three songs before the finish of the wind-down, closing sequence. The whole workout follows a “curve,” as Transou showed on a chart on the wall, with a warmup immersion, hitting the highest intensity in the middle, and gradually easing out.
Everyone in the class also sang as a group at times, especially on cue to belt out the last line of the chorus of “American Kids”: “A little messed up, but we’re all right.”
Dove said with eight years of Jazzercise under her belt, she takes just about every class, “day and night.” Nine classes play out every week in North Myrtle Beach, also with Susan Vigar leading a few sessions.
Asked if a newcomer, such as this writer, looking at neighbors to find the right step or to move to get back in synch with everyone else was OK, Dove said it didn’t matter. Everyone stayed in her — or his — own groove to the music; one older woman in the rear sat out one number, but she didn’t stand out, for she still moved her arms and legs, keeping her own time and place, before getting back on her feet.
“We all look out of place,” Dove said, half-jokingly and stating Jazzercise’s real two-for-one reward: “It’s good for the heart and mind.”
Transou said Jazzercise won her over in 1988 when she lived in Charlotte, N.C. Besides its music and choreography, she finds it simply “a kick-butt workout,” so much so that, “I Jazzercised through both my pregnancies.”
Moving to the Grand Strand in the mid-1990s, she found herself at a loss without a class, so she figured teaching it would punch her return ticket, and after a year, she earned her certification for a Jazzercise franchise, which has been on the go in North Myrtle Beach since Dec. 2, 1999.
Transousaid Jazzercise’s evolution rolls on through “rebranding,” and that instructors receive new routines and music “every two months, so it is always fresh.”
The mother of two adult daughters also stays hip after hearing the newest hits on pop and country radio, happy that she and other dancers, including grandmothers, in the presence of younger girls, can say, “I know the music,” too.
‘Sisterhood’ of energy
Ellen Hunter, a northeast Ohio native who retired to Calabash, N.C., helps Transou by welcoming everyone with sign-in. She called the classes, including the 42 people who turned out on the morning of Jan. 14, “a sisterhood” she has enjoyed for “a long time.”
After every class, said Hunter, not shy at stating her age of 70, “I go home full of energy,” and with that power shared among dancers in each class, “we work off one another.”
Transou, who sells advertising for Beach Music Scene Magazine, which publishes quarterly in North Myrtle Beach, also credits the class participants, who “keep me at my energy level.” Some have been with her for all 16 years.
The community in the exercise room — for which the city of North Myrtle Beach, an energetic host for Jazzercise, just put a new finish on “our floating hardwood floor” — also carries outside the building, Transou said, through food drives and other collective outreach efforts.
Even if people such as winter vacationers from the North link up with a Jazzercise class or find a home in another class or kind of fitness regimen elsewhere, Transou said, she hopes participants who exercise with this fervor and fun set an example, with a cue to which someone on the fence about joining might conclude, “If she can do it, I can do it.”
Jazzercise also takes place three evenings a week with Heather Yates at the S.C. Wellness and Fitness Center on Holmestown Road in the Burgess community.
Easy to return, rejoice
The other lone man in class last Friday in North Myrtle Beach, Bob Allen of North Myrtle Beach, said he started Jazzercise in 2001. He used a key word, “benefit,” in assessing its value for him.
“Once you realize the benefit,” Allen said, wearing a white T-shirt and dark shorts, with a liquid refreshment in hand, “you don’t want to give it up.”
Winnie King of Myrtle Beach has been hooked on Jazzercise for more than a decade, and she was told how two rows ahead, she gave this writer a guide for keeping, or getting back, on track at various points.
“It’s just fun dancing,” she said, “and you meet so many friends.”
Mary Ann Giovino of North Myrtle Beach said this marks her second or third year in the classes.
“It’s a lot of aerobics,” she said, “with your waist, stomach and dancing. It’s a total workout.”
Marie Nemeth said she first danced Jazzercise 35 years ago in her native New Jersey, and she loves the family atmosphere with all the classes in North Myrtle Beach.
“It’s like my second family,” she said. “My family away from my family.”