Dance + Fitness = Firm Fun

Kim Johnson-Rockafellow‘s Barre Workout, one of our many Dance Fitness classes, is my class of choice these days. Was it Mark Twain who said, “Often imitated but never duplicated”? Kim is the real deal. Dancer/Choreographer extraordinaire, don’t worry about getting bored in her workout.

People of all ages and abilities show up for Kim’s class, including me, whenever I can make it. Student’s love the focus on alignment and mix of movement, stretch, weights, bands, balls, barres and mats (all to great music). Your entire body gets stretched, strengthened, firmed and it’s fun. You can’t beat that. But don’t take my word for it, read below to get a student’s perspective. Melissa Schoeffel is a senior lecturer in the Department of English at UW-Milwaukee, wife and mother of two sons.

The Body’s Own Resistance
by Melissa Schoeffel

Melissa and her boys at Meteor Crater in Arizona

The second side is always harder. That’s the bit you should remember when you show up for your first Dance Fitness class. It encapsulates what I’ve learned over the last few years. The second side is harder because even though you haven’t worked that side yet, your whole self is involved in working the first side, and your whole self is that much more tired for it. The second side is harder, but it’s where you learn about holding back and holding on—remembering to hold a little in reserve even while you give it everything you’ve got, and pushing those tired muscles through to the end of the routine, to the end of the class. The second side is about exploring the connections between the parts and the whole.

I started taking Dance Fitness when my youngest child started all-day, four-year-old kindergarten. It was the first time in many years that I felt like I could afford—in terms of both time and money—to take a couple of hours out of my work week to work out. Looking back, I realize how desperate I was to reclaim a body that had been given over to motherhood, to reclaim the ability to move that body in particular ways that I had long since abandoned. I was struggling with depression and wanted the exercise to buoy my mood, and I wanted to do something that was just for me.

In order to do this thing just for me, I had to, paradoxically, go into it without any illusions about what it was going to do for me: I wasn’t going to burst onto the beach the next summer with a “bikini body”; I wasn’t going to shed all the pounds I had accumulated since having two children and watching my metabolism slow to a late-thirties crawl. I didn’t need to look like I was in my twenties again; I just needed to be healthier, happier, and to recapture some of what it used to feel like to move.

Kim Johnson-Rockafellow Artistic Manager
Kim Johnson-Rockafellow
Artistic Manager
I got more than I bargained for, because what I realized, fairly early on, is that even as I was feeling better (and looking better, I suppose), the best of what was happening was that I was feeling stronger. Because of the sweaty time I’ve spent wrestling with what our lovely instructor, Kim Johnson, will tell you is my “body’s own resistance,” I joyously found out that I could carry my five-year-old all the way home from the lakefront to Riverwest AFTER the Fourth of July fireworks. That’s two miles of walking at the end of a long night and carrying 42 pounds of a load that alternated between wriggling, whining child and dead weight. I can carry the heck out of some groceries too, and I have a physical understanding of what Kim is talking about when she says “shoulder girdle,” because I actually have one of those now. Even though my oldest child still calls me “Mush,” while affectionately (and irritatingly) poking me in my softer parts, there’s iron underneath there. And let’s face it, Mushy Mama can dance.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that something else that keeps me coming back, week after week, is that I get to be a part, albeit a small one, of the Danceworks community. I knew about Danceworks’ investment in the Milwaukee community before I started taking a class there, and I remember hoping, beforehand, that I would love the classes and the people as much as I loved the idea of Danceworks. I do. If I’m going to spend my money paying someone to make me sweat (a lot) twice a week, this is the mission and vision I want to support.

“Fun times with dance,” Kim wryly quipped the other morning, as we sweated through a routine that was a little extra challenging. Though it was clearly meant to be gently ironic in that particular moment, I was struck by how true it was of my whole experience with Danceworks.

With her husband
With her husband Martin enjoying Lakefront Brewery together

Melissa is so much more than a small part of Danceworks. She and her family will be moving to West Texas soon and we are really going to miss her. But, I’ll be working on Skyping her into class. Once a Danceworker always a Danceworker.

We are happy to announce the launch of our new website (September 4) and online scheduling and registration system. Our new system will make it easier to sign up for classes, review your purchase history and monitor your personal account. Sign up for your Fall class now: Register here.

Thanks for visiting my Blog. Is there something you’d like to know more about…? Please let me know. –Deb Farris, Executive Director

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“Welcome to Danceworks!”

Hannah, Jolie and Jessie Mae say,  “Welcome to Danceworks!  Have you been here before?  How can we help you?”

The ladies at the front desk get asked a lot of questions every day, and before our summer classes for adults and youth begin on June 3rd, I thought I could take a few minutes to answer some of the most popular ones:

Hannah and Jolie
Hannah and Jolie
Jessie Mae
Jessie Mae

I’ve never danced before – can I come and try an adult beginner class?

Yay!  Yes!  Good for you!  Danceworks is known for offering classes to people of all ages and abilities.  We are here to help you get moving!  We have lots of beginning adult students who make the move through our doors for their first dance class and get hooked by the fun and new friends they make as much as the dancing.

What do I wear?

Well, the dress code is this: we want you to be comfortable.  You don’t need a new wardrobe — just wear something that is easy to move in for Tap, Hip Hop and Jazz.  The same goes for Ballet but be aware that the teacher needs to see your ankles and feet — leotards, tights and leg warmers are fine but so are leggings and sports tops.  Layers are good and can be removed as you warm up.  For Dance Fitness classes, wear anything you would work out in.

Speaking of Dance Fitness, do I need to bring a mat or weights with me for the workout?

Nope!  We provide the mats, weights, bands and balls.  It’s a very thorough workout, by the way –- a little cardio, arm work, abs, hips and legs. You can always count on some stretching.  (It’s my own once a week workout.)  Professional dancers teach the classes so you’ll never get bored with the routines.

What kind of shoes do I wear?

Ballet Slippers, Tap and Jazz Shoes
Ballet Slippers, Tap and Jazz Shoes

If you don’t have any ballet slippers, tap or jazz shoes, you’re in luck.  We sell them on site.  For Hip Hop, we ask that you wear clean tennis shoes.  For Barre Workouts you can wear ballet slippers, socks or go bare footed.

Do you have Pole Dancing?

No.

I really want to try a class but I’m nervous about it.  Can I just come and observe?

Absolutely!  Just let Hannah, Jolie or Jessie Mae know and they will introduce you to the teacher and help you get situated.

I’m worried I will be older than everyone else.  What is the age range of the students in your adult classes?

Danceworks believes dance is for everyone.  Our oldest student is 87!  Even in our 50+ classes, we don’t card.  These classes are geared at the mature mover and flow at a gentler pace, providing more time for corrections and explanations — but people under 50 are welcome. Students in our general adult classes can range in age from mid-teens to mid-70s.

I’m going to be gone the first week of class and I’ll be in and out throughout the summer.  Can I still join in?

Yes!  We work with adults’ busy schedules and offer ongoing enrollment — you can start at any time.  We also offer flexible payment plans, so you can pay for a single class, purchase a class card of 6 or more classes or sign up for a full session.  The more classes you buy at one time, though, the cheaper it is.

Melissa Feldmeyer takes care of the money.  If you have questions about your payment  she will help.
Melissa Feldmeyer takes care of the money. If you have questions about your payment she can help you.

Where do I park?

We have a parking lot open to students after 5:00 p.m. and on Saturdays.  Weekdays before 5:00, there is plenty of free street parking available. There is also a bike rack available in the northwest corner by the river.

Do the adult classes have recitals?

No worries there.  If you are interested in performing though, we have some opportunities.  Check out the Summer DanceLAB!

So, those are a few of our most asked questions. Did I miss one?  Let me know and I will be in touch with you asap.  I really hope to see you this summer and would love to hear about your experience.  We’re rooting for you and hope you find a home at Danceworks!  –Deb Farris

Our lovely Ali is moving on to bright things.  We will all miss her but wish her the very best.
Our lovely Ali is moving on to bright things. We will all miss her but wish her the very best.