Actor David Hadyn-Jones participates in a Jazzercise routine on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2016. (Joshua Balicki/The Daily Iowan)

Jazzercise dances into charity

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By Joshua Balicki
joshua-balicki@uiowa.edu

Jazzercise is an internationally renowned dance and fitness company founded in 1969 by Judi Sheppard Missett in Evanston, Illinois. She reportedly performed her Jazzercise routines in the Iowa State Fair talent competition.

The company also has a rich history in Iowa City, and owner of Jazzercise Iowa City Kristi Bontrager has carried on Missett’s legacy.

Jazzercise Iowa City now offers 40 classes a week ranging from dance mix formats, interval training, strength-based classes, and kickboxing. Jazzercise prides itself on having an inclusive, fun, and nonjudgmental fitness environment.

Jazzercise launched a global initiative called Girlforce that offers free memberships for the remainder of 2017 for females between the ages of 16 to 21. Its mission is to offer women a safe place to stay fit and learn the benefits of both physical and mental health.

“The idea came when our founder, Judi Sheppard Missett, was invited to the White House summit on women in 2016,” Bontrager said. “She was learning about the challenges that girls face during their teen years.”

Tammy Andersen, a longtime Jazzercise custumer, calls herself a superfan of the show “Supernatural.” She communicates with “Supernatural” actors via social media, travels to their conventions, and promotes charity work done by the actors.

Andersen reached actor David Haydn-Jones (Arthur Ketch on “Supernatural”) about his charity work with the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. It is a cause near and dear to him, a disease that has affected his family and an affliction he believes needs more attention.

“For my Nana,” Haydn-Jones said on social media. “And my wonderful Grandfather, Aunts, Mother and part-time caregiver who nurtured her and gave comfort.”

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With the help of Represent apparel, Haydn-Jones designed a T-shirt called “Less than 3 = Love” to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Foundation. The T-shirt concept started with a social-media joke.

“I kept seeing <3 popping up in my feeds,” Haydn-Jones said. “I actually thought I was being trolled and that people were rating me unfavorably. That is, until the generous community quickly told me that <3 was an old texting emoji for a heart and was meant to say love.”

One Twitter user suggested the phrase “I Less Than Three You” for the T-shirt. Andersen reached Haydn-Jones via Twitter, and 45 minutes later, he issued a challenge to the fandom that if it sold more than 500 T-shirts for the Alzheimer’s Foundation campaign, he would come to Iowa City and participate in a Jazzercise class.

The fans exceeded the goal, and Andersen personally invited him to the Jazzercise Fitness center for an event. Three weeks later, the Jazzercise people received news that he would travel to Iowa City.

After three months of detailed correspondence and generous sponsors, the date of Oct. 14 was set.

“I had tried this with other actors before, but they were busy, so I did not expect much,” Andersen said. “I invited him to Jazzercise Iowa City because we have such an amazing- diverse group of people here.”

With roles on award-winning television shows such as “Supernatural,” “Modern Family,” “NCIS,” and “Criminal Minds,” and Hallmark Christmas classics such as “A Cookie Cutter Christmas,” “My Christmas Dream,” and “Dear Santa.” Haydn-Jones put on a show at Jazzercise.

Native Saskatchewan- Haydn-Jones was a humble, energetic presence amid a crowd of “Supernatural” super-fans. He danced in neon legwarmers, tiger print shorts, a headband, and one of his charity shirts. From Taylor Swift to Fall Out Boy, Jazzercise celebrated its fundraising achievements with song, dance, and laughter.

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