Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Returning to birthplace, Jazzercise hits Evanston

Sarah Devillier sashays across the floor and stretches her arms out, mimicking the movements of her instructor.

Devillier, a financial assistant at Northwestern, took Jazzercise classes with her mother throughout high school. Jazzercise is an exercise program that incorporates elements from dance, Pilates and kickboxing into a workout with music, including jazz and pop.

Since Devillier moved to Illinois from Maryland, she has been looking for classes to keep up with her hobby. She finally received an e-mail a few weeks ago announcing a class was starting in Evanston on March 8.

“It’s the most fun way of working out and it’s such a great stress reliever,” Devillier said. “It is such an amazing all-around workout, and it’s the best because people from all different levels can do it.”

NU alumna Judi Sheppard Missett (Communication ’66) started Jazzercise in 1969 in her garage, said instructor Lauren Heist, 32, who owns the north branch of Jazzercise, Inc.

Since then, it has left Evanston and spread outside the U.S. Now, it boasts more than 7,500 instructors in 32 countries and 32,000 classes weekly.

“As far as I know, there haven’t been any classes in Evanston since (Missett) left,” Heist said. “There are classes in Skokie and Chicago but not in the hometown.”

This year, Heist has brought the aerobics class back to the city in which it started. And it’s a little different 41 years later.

In the hour-long classes, participants mirror the instructor’s movements, which include skipping, tapping and marching to pop music from the likes of John Mayer, Michael Bublé, Jennifer Lopez and Deborah Cox.

“It’s not your mom’s Jazzercise,” Heist said. “It’s really all contemporary music-stuff that’s popular and that’s fun. It’s not dorky.”

The selection of Cheryl Burke from “Dancing with the Stars” as the spokesperson for Jazzercise, Inc. has also helped to freshen the company’s image, Heist said.

For Allan Friedman, a first-timer at Thursday’s class, Jazzercise was an enjoyable experience.

“I loved it,” Friedman said after class. “Right now, I feel great. Even though it was challenging, I slowed down when I needed to, and I felt like I could keep up.”

Heist said she can’t wait for the program to find more participants.

“I’m excited about the growth of Jazzercise locally,” Heist said in a press release. “Jazzercise offers a unique blend of fitness and jazz dance that Chicago-area residents have discovered is a lot of fun. The new classes will just make it easier for participants to enjoy a workout where and when it’s convenient for them.”

Classes are offered on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 600 Main St.[email protected]

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881
Returning to birthplace, Jazzercise hits Evanston