Confident and determined, Joy McPherson was ready to hit the dance floor.
“It was huge for me, I had so much fun at my daughter’s wedding,” McPherson said. “If it wasn’t for LaBlast, I would have been standing on the sidelines watching everyone else have fun instead of being out there myself.”
The 56-year-old Englewood woman credits her year of LaBlast classes for her competence and confidence on the dance floor. LaBlast a partner-free dance program created by three-time world dance champion and “Dancing With the Stars” pro Louis van Amstel enables participants to learn dance, get fit and have fun.
“We make it as fun and entertaining as possible,” van Amstel said. “People don’t even know they are working out because they’re having so much fun, but they are getting a full-body workout and they will definitely feel the difference over time.”
The dance-based fitness class is offered locally at The Studio Fitness in Vandalia.
“This is a class for anybody,” LaBlast instructor Chris Mesker said. “It doesn’t matter if you can dance, you only need to have a desire to move and get your heartbeat up.”
LaBlast first took shape after the second season of “Dancing With the Stars,” when van Amstel’s celebrity partner Lisa Rinna expressed her desire to continue dancing after the season ended. It quickly became apparent to the longtime dancer and choreographer that he had an opportunity to create something new and exciting
With Rinna’s help, van Amstel launched his first class in a small dance studio with just a few friends. In a few weeks, the classes were packed and more classes were added. Before he knew it, he was teaching eight classes, six days a week.
Seven years later, there are more than 1,000 instructors offering LaBlast classes worldwide.
“Being on the show affected so many of my partners in a positive way — Lisa Rinna, Niecy Nash, Kelly Osbourne — I knew I had to do something with that experience,” van Amstel said. “Niecy told me that her time on ‘Dancing With the Stars’ was a ‘dream deferred,’ and I wanted to open doors to dreams deferred for anyone.”
Chacha, salsa, disco, samba, jive, paso doble, merengue, Hustle, Lindy hop, Viennese waltz, quick step, rumba, tango: You name it, you will be dancing it in LaBlast.
And it’s not an adaptation that is taught. It’s the actual dance, as van Amstel has worked to preserve the integrity of the dances.
“I’m not just going to give you the flavor, I’m going to give you the meal,” he said. “You are learning a true skill.”
It’s the purity of the dance that appeals to Mesker, who remembers a childhood spent watching the dancers on the Lawrence Welk Show and tap dancing on her mom’s coffee table.
“What I love most about LaBlast is that it keeps everything true to dance, yet you don’t have to be a dancer to enjoy the class,” she said.
The one-hour classes provide a significant cardio workout as well as total-body toning disguised as fun.
“I feel stronger, and I’ve lost weight,” Linda Hageman of Vandalia said. “But you don’t even know you’re exercising, it’s so much fun.”
And the benefits go well beyond fitness.
“The philosophy of LaBlast is that you dance with your mind, body and soul,” van Amstel said. “Some people are fearful at the beginning, but they don’t need to be and once they realize they can do it, we have them for life – they are addicted.”
Confidence grows step-by-step and dance-by-dance.
“I never felt like I could dance and I was very shy about it,” McPherson said. “I’m still a little shy, but I have enough confidence that I don’t stand by and wish I could get out there – I do get out there.”
Testimonials like McPherson’s inspire van Amstel daily.
“I have a passion for wanting to change lives,” he said. “That’s why I find the time to do this.”
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