Fitness Will Just Flow Organically When You Find Your Own Rhythm Out on the Dance Floor
But now, the fitness veteran is trying his own approach to group exercise. He calls it "Groove Cafe."
In some ways it's like most group exercise classes. During Groove Cafe, energetic participants follow the equally energetic Ellis as he leads them in dance moves to his specially selected mix of music.
But in this class, the instructor encourages students to take off their athletic shoes and improvise their own "groove" from his choreography and music.
Halfway through, Ellis begins a special "freestyle" period, when participants can feel free to do their own moves, whether hip-hop or Pilates. The focus of Ellis' new exercise class, he says, is on letting movement flow organically -- "finding your own rhythm," combining choreography with free-form dance.
"This class is one of the most 'inclusive' classes I've ever influenced. It's attractive to anyone desiring to lay their burdens, worries and cares on the dance floor and just explore for 60 minutes," says Ellis.
Ellis, Nike project manager and fitness athlete, teaches specialty classes once a month, due to a heavy travel schedule with his job. One of them is Groove Cafe. His classes are taught at different fitness venues around town, including corporate settings and general fitness facilities like local YMCAs.
In June, Ellis presented Groove Cafe to the members and staff of Inbalance Group Fitness in Midtown.
Participants found Groove Cafe fun and said they noticed elements from both Eastern and Western forms of exercise.
"Typically, aerobics is more intense. This more lent itself to mind and body but in dance," said Scott Lebowitz, personal trainer and owner of Inbalance Group Fitness. Lebowitz thought the class would be perfect for his wife who "loses herself" in dance.
Tara Campbell, who teaches Group Century, a group yoga and Pilates class, and Group Active, a group cardio, strength training and flexibility/balance class at Inbalance said the freestyle element of Groove Cafe would "add a certain sense of letting go and just enjoying the moment that not all classes have."
Ellis, now a three-year yoga practitioner, feels dance can reach deeper than just the physical sense. "It can have an expression of being very soulful." Apparently, the mind-body connection is something that's attracting more and more exercisers and vendors.
According to the IDEA Health & Fitness Association's 2006 Programs & Equipment Survey, all types of aerobics classes (high-, low- and mixed-impact) combined, were being offered by roughly half of the respondents, while Pilates and yoga were offered by 64 percent and 58 percent of the respondents, respectively. Two-thirds of respondents also said they expected the use of Pilates equipment to grow.
When Ellis entered the fitness industry in 1987, people had just began to explore aerobics. He began teaching aerobics classes through college and placed second for a national step aerobics competition in 1991 and second in a national aerobics competition in 1992.
But now he is moving away from the basic format of group exercise classes. "Dance classes today are often taught as an art based on controlling the body -- 'Do this step after that step; move the hand this way or the hips that way,'" he says. "How fatigued you get and how many calories you burn (in Groove Cafe) depends on how much you allow yourself to surrender to the music. It's your dance floor, I just provide the music."
According to Ellis, when Americans discuss the physical benefits of exercise, they tend to focus on the three "S's": strength, stamina and slimming. But when he talks about Groove Cafe, Ellis uses terms such as surrendering, organic movement and free flowing.
Groove Cafe is for people to experiment with movement. Ellis says he wants people to find what works for them and not what he thinks works for them. "No single training system can give your body all the types of conditioning it requires. That is why experts suggest a variety of activities."
Groove Cafe will be offered again on Aug. 7 at Nike at 5151 Shelby Drive for employees and their spouses. Contact Ellis at firstname.lastname@example.org for information about future sessions of Groove Cafe.
More info: Ellis' Fitness Philosophy Making healthful choices is like learning how to ride a bike. "When you fall, dust yourself off and try again." he says. "Rather than beat yourself up for what you haven't done, applaud your efforts."
Good in equals good out. Tell yourself that you are worthy. As you become healthier, you'll see yourself as more capable and powerful.
Don't judge yourself. If you feel like a failure, ask yourself why and be gentle with yourself. Don't let anyone, including yourself; let you feel like a failure. Determine to lead by example and imagine other people following in your active footsteps.
Perseverance is what gets you where you want to go. Successful people usually "fail" many times before they succeed.
"This class is one of the most 'inclusive' classes I've ever influenced. It's attractive to anyone desiring to lay their burdens, worries and cares on the dance floor and just explore for 60 minutes."
Jonathan Ellis, Fitness Instructor