Jazzercise: The Beginnings Of A Fitness Craze

By | August 28, 2021

test article image
Source: (Pinterest).

Jazzercise was born after second-wave feminism was underway, and it helped to revolutionize fitness for women; its impact continues to be felt today. Prior to the 1960s, in the 1930s, there was a “figure salon” in Chicago which invited women to “soothe the nerves and tighten the curves,” but businesses like this one were owned by men and held “ladies days” which existed mainly to keep the proper distance between men and women. By the time Jazzercise was born, women’s liberation was transforming old ideas about women’s bodies and fitness. It was the right time for Judi Sheppard Missett to begin her business. Women like Jacki Sorensen developed “aerobic dancing” and Lydia Bach imported Lotte Berk’s barre workout from London, but it was Jazzercise that really caught on. 

test article image
Source: (YouTube).

It Began With A Young Dancer

Judi Sheppard Missett founded Jazzercise in 1969, although it was originally called Jazz Dance for Fun and Fitness. Missett, who was born pigeon-toed, danced from a young age, after her mother took her to a doctor to correct her stance; the doctor suggested that her mother should enroll her in dance classes. Thus, she began dancing and continued after her graduation from Northwestern University. She taught classes in suburban Chicago, but her retention rate was low, and she wanted to know why. The response she received changed her approach. As she found out, the students informed her that they didn’t want to be professional dancers; they just wanted to look like professional dancers. She had her students turn away from the mirrors so they were not focused on form. She also simplified routines, used new music, and used positive encouragement to keep her students motivated.