All eyes were on Sadie Kurzban Thursday night as she bounded up in a tank top that blared, “Make Sweat Sexy.” The curly-haired dynamo had an announcement: “I’m here in D.C. because we heard there are a lot of young people, and a lot of Type A people who get into their workouts.” That’s just the audience for Kurzban’s brand of dance aerobics, 305 Fitness.
What It Is: The program, named for Miami’s area code, was born at Brown University. Kurzban, a Miami native, experimented as she taught dance fitness to her classmates. What developed into 305 Fitness won a business plan competition, so when Kurzban graduated in 2012, she used the prize money to establish her vision by teaching classes at several gyms in New York.
“Word just spread,” Kurzban said, as more students fell for her formula. There’s a DJ in every class, but only half of what he or she spins prompts choreographed routines. So the instructor — Kurzban or one of her handpicked team of a dozen proteges — must improvise. “I’m genuinely excited when a song comes on I wasn’t expecting. I don’t know what’s coming.”
But she can sketch out what’s happening with 305. It’s opening a flagship studio in New York this fall and expanding to new markets. Up first: D.C. Two instructors have relocated here. Kurzban accompanied them last week to get the party started with D.C.’s debut classes.
Moves: There’s only one rule, Kurzban decreed: “You have to make noise at some point.” She held up her hands to test the crowd’s volume level, they roared back and it was time to get going.
Unlike most dance classes, which are taught as a series of songs, each with its own steps, 305 is a constant flow — the DJ creates a seamless mix. So the first 30 minutes of class is taught as one section, with rapidly evolving choreography. Much of it is chosen on the spot, Kurzban says, but regulars know to expect certain things.
“You can’t go wrong with jumping jacks, high knees and split squats,” she says. To make it feel more like a nightclub than boot camp, those are accompanied by grapevines, hip rolls and rump shaking.
There’s a toning “break” — planks, squats, lunges and plies designed to make muscles burn.
“Some of you think class is over. That’s not what’s happening,” Kurzban told Thursday’s class, as the room full of legs shook. Instead, they jumped into a five-minute “sprint” of extra intense moves, which segued into another dance segment and, finally, the cooldown.
Workout: No one in the room worked as hard as Kurzban, who kept popping up at different spots, reminding students to lift their knees higher, squat lower and keep up as she twisted and turned. “When I’m right in your face, it’s hard to slack off,” she explained.
It’s also hard to ignore all of that high-impact hopping. If your knees can’t handle it, 305 isn’t the right class for you, Kurzban said.
But for the people who can keep up (or come close) it’s exhilaratingly exhausting. “I liked the wildness of it,” said Cassandra Bell, 25, of Arlington, who was reminded of the soccer workouts of her youth. Christina Cleary, 30, of NoMa, was amazed at how wrecked she felt, despite her marathon training.
Motivation: The key, said Jessica Downing, 24, of Georgetown, is that the exercises change so rapidly “that I didn’t have time to give up.”
That’s by design, Kurzban said: “I’m a millennial. We want it, we want it now, and then we want something else. I’m not going to sit through a five-minute song.” And in the moments when pain is setting in, she’s ready with encouragement. “Let me see your courage, discipline and focus,” Kurzban commanded at point. At another: “Take that risk and give it your all.”
It’s advice she clearly follows herself.
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