Soul Grooves class at fitness center energizes members _lowres

Photo provided by DANA MICHELL -- Tammy Harris, wearing a pink armband, stands front and center at the Woman's Center for Wellness fitness center with Arianne Bellizaire, far right, as the two lead center members in the first-ever Soul Grooves class in Louisiana. The center is the first studio outside of Texas to offer the dance-based fitness class founded by Harris of Houston, Texas. Bellizaire was certified by Harris and will be teaching the class at Woman's.

Arianne Bellizaire recalls attending her first Soul Grooves class in Houston. She loved the idea of a workout that involved an interchangeable rotation of miniature dance routines set together to fast-paced music.

“I stood in the very back row of the class,” Bellizaire said. “And I slowly worked my way up. I lost a ton of weight, and I just loved it,” she said in between workshops at the Woman’s Center for Wellness, where Soul Grooves developer Tammy Harris came Jan. 10 to do three workshops for fitness center members.

Bellizaire was right beside Harris at the front of the class. She loved Soul Grooves so much that when she moved back to Baton Rouge, she got certified to teach, and will be leading two classes per week at the center.

“We had two sessions planned,” said Marilyn Hunt, marketing manager for the center. “Demand was so great for this class that we had to add a third workshop, and moved all three workshops to our largest room. In fact, we wanted to set up a big tent outside so we could accommodate all the demand, but the weather didn’t cooperate.”

More than 100 people signed up, Hunt said.

“We had a hip-hop exercise class that was very popular with our members, and our teacher moved — to Houston, oddly enough, so when we heard Arianne wanted to bring this class here, it was a perfect fit. She just slid right in. People are just looking for a way to stay in shape that’s fun and energizing,” she said.

And energized they were. Women of all ages and sizes followed Harris and Bellizaire as they demonstrated what would be the first routine of several in the 30-minute class. It involved a body roll, which seemed to make some members nervous.

But everyone in the class was body rolling by the end of the routine, partly because of Harris’ and Bellizaire’s infectious enthusiasm, and partly from their encouragement.

“Don’t think ‘I’m too old. I can’t do that.’ Take a little time to be accepted for who you are. Don’t be stressed about that body roll. It’s not that serious. Mortgage, yes. Body roll, no,” Harris said.

Rose Lawson, a Woman’s Hospital employee and the literal poster woman for the fitness center — her picture is on advertisements — loved the first workshop so much that she asked to stay for the second workshop.

“It’s a lot of fun,” she said, still sweating from the class.

The classes, to be held Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m. and Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m., are available to all Woman’s Center members, Hunt said, but if nonmembers want to try the class, 12-class passes are available for $120.

For more information, call the center at (225) 924-8300.