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Look Ma! Jazz hands!

Where it all began: Joan McGrath School of Dance recital, 1973. How crazy did I make my parents "tapping" around the house in those shoes!

I get a strange reaction from people who have known me for a long time when I say I recently became a Jazzercise instructor.

Friends who go back as far as King Street Elementary School in Port Chester, NY, remember me — vividly, I’m sure — clinging to the climbing rope a mere two feet off the ground; sliding helplessly off the first ring while others nimbly swung from one to the other; worming my way out from beneath the medicine ball; running from the kickball.

They probably remember arguing over who would have to take me on their dodgeball team, but they don’t remember me playing, I’m sure. Despite stellar ducking skills, I was always the first one to take a seat on the bench.

There was that one time I beat Greg Chizzini in a hurdles race. Even the gym teacher, whose name I can’t recall, was shocked!

And in high school, well, I’m sure no one else was as pleased as I was to get mono in 10th grade and have to sit out of gym for a WHOLE semester.

I was lucky to be tiny and thin, and thought that equaled being “in shape.” And although marching band and color guard did get me moving, I never exercised. Unless you count running out from under the flag again and again before finally learning to catch it.

Dancing was fun, though. When I was a kid, my parents enrolled me in the Joan McGrath School of Dance in Port Chester. There I learned the “Little Teapot” song, how to arrange my feet in first and second positions, how to plie and that tap shoes may be the most fun footwear ever. The lessons only lasted a couple of years, but they made an indelible impression.

In college, I chose a dance class to meet my phys ed requirement, not realizing I’d have to wear … a leotard. Or that the final would mean choreographing a piece and THEN PERFORMING it for the class. I’m sure my grade was based largely on professor sympathy.

As I approached 40, it became time to reassess. I walked into my first Jazzercise class a little anxious that I’d make a fool of myself, but left in love with the workout.

The music was fabulous, the people were friendly and the workout kicked my butt. Jazzercise of Southwestern CT quickly became a home away from home, a welcoming community and a place where I could blow off steam. If I was stressed at home, Catherine and Basil quickly pointed me to the door and sent me to class.

Sticking with the workout brought results. Before long I was trading in the oversized T-shirt and decade-old running pants (yes, I briefly tried jogging) for form-fitting exercise clothes. I bought a bikini! I moved to the front row in class. I stopped caring if anyone was watching. And was surprised to be asked to become an instructor.

This past spring, I got my certification and I’m proud to pay forward all the good things I’ve enjoyed by being part of Stamford‘s Jazzercise community. It may be the best job I’ve ever had — I get to help other women escape for an hour at time, help them get fit, have some fun, and connect with others.

Study after study proves exercise has lasting benefits, yet far too few people turn off the computer or the TV and get moving. I’m proof that it’s not difficult to take the first step.

If I can go from hanging limply on a climbing rope to motivating others to get fit, you can get moving, too. Stop by the dance floor on Hope Street and I’ll show you how. In fact, stop by Monday and take advantage of our one-day sale.  Your body will thank you!

About Terri S. Vanech

Wife, mother, communications specialist, Jazzercise instructor and recently reunited adoptee. I'm living out loud -- and trying to make it all work -- in midlife. Having a sense of humor sure helps.


2 thoughts on “Look Ma! Jazz hands!

  1. Jazz, I’ve told you many times: We are sisters separated by I-don’t-know-what! Thank goodness we found each other!

    Posted by terrisv15 | August 22, 2011, 8:10 am
  2. Best part of mono was missing 10th grade PE class–I knew we had a lot in common. Now look at the two of us–I climb mountains for fun! Being out there moving (no matter what kind of moving) really helps you keep focused on the rest of life. One of these days I’ll get to your class.

    Posted by Jacquie | August 21, 2011, 8:56 pm

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