“It started as a side thing I did for fun,” says Boutcher, who began teaching the classes at Landmark Mall in Alexandria in 2006. “And then it just kind of grew on its own like a monster.”
Kazaxe — pronounced kah-zah-SHAY — includes Latin tunes and moves and samples from other music and dance styles, such as hip-hop, Caribbean soca and Filipino dance music. The high intensity level makes each hour feel like a booty-shaking boot camp.
Where it is: Tucked away in an industrial park in Springfield, Va., Kazaxe seems like it could be the region’s best-kept secret. Until you walk inside.
Doors from the lobby open onto a massive warehouse space that’s packed with bodies — even on an icy night, hundreds of students show up. Neon and laser lights crisscross the room, and booming speakers pump out high-energy tunes.
This has been Kazaxe’s home for a year. Boutcher has had to relocate often for more space: “Anywhere we go, it just explodes within a few months, and then we have to leave.”
The next move, she hopes, will be expansion. Boutcher has been eying an additional location in Northern Virginia, or possibly in Maryland.
Workout: Boutcher sets basic rules for her instructors to follow to make sure each class is at the right level of intensity and that everything is safe.
“You don’t do three songs in a row with high knees. You’re gonna kill people,” says Boutcher, who recommends mixing up the choreography as much as possible. Her favorite move? Stick your butt back and bounce it, while swinging a fist across your body.
These days, Boutcher has been inspired by athletic exercises from “P90X” and “Insanity,” but her students never know what to expect. “I pull ideas from everywhere,” she says. “It’s constantly changing.”
Instructors are free to customize based on their strengths and interests. One who’s from Jamaica brings more of a Caribbean feel to her dancing, and another offers more of a “Lady Gaga flair,” Boutcher says.
Crowd: Many “gremlins” — as Boutcher lovingly calls her students — take classes at least three times a week. Some show up way more.
“I pretty much live here,” says Melih Ertekin, 23, who has lost 80 pounds since coming to his first Kazaxe class a year and a half ago.
That kind of commitment is what leads to results, Boutcher explains. “You really have to be living this every day to understand what it is,” she says. But newbies don’t need to feel intimidated by their lack of experience. “Every level can do it,” she promises.
These workouts offer more than just physical benefits, says Laina Vittone, 26, a Falls Church police officer who has been going to Kazaxe for more than five years. When she shows up at the doors, she’s usually still thinking about the stresses of her job. “Once I go in there,” Vittone says, “it just all goes away.”
6728 Industrial Road, Springfield, 703-335-2596; Kazaxe.com; Classes are offered seven days a week. The first class is free and $6 after that. Discount packages are available.