Motivating you to move

Instructor Erna Waller gets her students moving in time to the music at a recent Jazzercise class she teaches five days a week in Manette. - Photo by Erin Stuber
Instructor Erna Waller gets her students moving in time to the music at a recent Jazzercise class she teaches five days a week in Manette.
— image credit: Photo by Erin Stuber

Erna Waller is in the right business.

Her spunkiness, energy and enthusiasm make her perfectly suited to be the owner of Bremerton Jazzercise, a position she’s held since last September.

As students meander in one recent evening, Waller greets several by name and all with a big smile.

Their ages vary from teenagers to young grandmothers and they came equipped with the usual ready-to-sweat requirements: stretchy clothes, high-tech sneakers and sloshing water bottles.

“Got some good stuff for you tonight,” Waller declares as the beat begins pounding from a stereo behind her.

The high-spirited 23-year-old can be easily seen from atop a small stage a the front of the room. She moves like a trained dancer as she starts in on the routines from her perch; her 20 or so students to follow her on the smooth wood floors below.

Waller coaxes her students into doing a “booty walk,” not long after the 5:30 p.m. class is under way. Just minutes before, these women were comfortable in their motherly or professional appearances. They’ve left those roles behind during this hour of Jazzercise and are now suggestively strutting around the room on the ground floor of the Masonic Temple in Manette.

“You know you can’t come here and not shake it,” Waller tells these women with a cheeky grin spreading across her face.

Set to Elvis, to hip hop, to R & B, to country and to house music, the class is divided into small dance segments which help to make the time hurry by. Just as students catch on to one routine, Waller transitions into a new song and fresh moves.

“Who’s burning fat?” Waller’s voice resounds through her microphone headset. She adds her own hand to those quickly raised throughout the room by now glistening Jazzercisers.

Among them is Bridget Haney.

“When you leave, you just feel good and Erna makes it fun,” Haney said afterwards.

She has been coming to class since October and has 86 sessions under her sweatband. Once Haney hops off the ferry at 5 p.m. from her daily Seattle commute, she walks over the Manette Bridge and up the hill to Jazzercise before heading to her home in the same neighborhood.

“I like it because you get aerobics, you get stretching, you get weight lifting,” Haney said.

Julie Milan feels the same way.

“It’s everything in one class,” said the young brunette. Milan has known Waller since high school when they were both on the Bremerton High School drill team.

Even though Milan attends Jazzercise three or four days a week, she says the routines never get boring.

“She’s always changing it, so you don’t get tired of it,” Milan said.

Waller’s drill team background has come in handy as a dance aerobics instructor.

“It just came natural,” she said.

Waller, who has also been involved in a Seattle hip hop dance group, was encouraged by her former instructors after she began attending Jazzercise classes.

“I’d be here anyway,” Waller said of teaching — not that she didn’t have to put in a lot of work to move from the floor onto the stage.

Waller became a certified Jazzercise instructor after much training. She had to be tested on many routines, and her physiology and anatomy knowledge.

“I threw myself into it,” Waller said. Because of the national program’s high standards and mentor program, she added, “You’re hard pressed to find a bad instructor.”

Waller bought the Bremerton franchise in January. She is always willing to prove to doubters that Jazzercise has outgrown its legwarmer-wearing, feel the burn mentality.

“Things have changed, the routines have changed definitely,” Waller said. She also incorporates weight training into her classes and has even added a body sculpting course on Friday evenings.

Another new program Waller plans to offer is Junior Jazzercise on Saturday mornings. Tailored to children’s physical needs and musical tastes, the classes get kids moving in a noncompetitive setting.

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