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“Dance With Me”  A feel good workout with Billy Blanks Jr. and Sharon Catherine Blanks.

Trying to stay fit is something that I have strived for throughout my life. I was very athletic in my youth and early twenties but as I got older gravity started to take over and I started to gain so many pounds per year.  I've had a gym membership since 1992 but over the years, developed a love/hate relationship with it after attending classes for a few weeks, and would stop out of boredom.  I even tried Bikram Yoga for a year only to pull muscles that I didn't realize I had.   And summers were spent doing exercises in my pool or walking around the park however, I was not seeing that big of a change to my body.  I was convinced that I would just be pleasantly plump the rest of my life and it wasn't until I had seen a picture of myself  from a baby shower I hosted for a friend, that I had to make some drastic changes.  I had put on about 40 extra lbs over the years and although it didn't slow me down physically, I looked like I was expecting and even asked on several occasions if I was pregnant.  The very next day after I saw the pictures I went back to the gym and focused on the cardio machines but needed to kick it up a notch. I decided to try out another TKB (Turbo Kickboxing class) only to be reminded that at my age the knees, back and ankles make you pay for the consequences afterwards.  While checking the schedule of classes, I came across a class called "Dance With Me" so I decided to give a try.  

When I arrived to the class there were a bunch of people already in the room waiting for class to start and I found a spot in the very back of the room.  Billy Blanks Jr. and his wife Sharon Catherine Blanks entered the room and said hello to the group then asked if there was anyone new to the class.  About 10 other people and I held up our hands and the group gave us all a very supportive welcome.  After a short introduction about the class by the duo, Sharon then started to talk about breath control and how important it was to help build stamina.  We also did breathing exercises before the actual work out began.  Being a trained singer, I knew the importance of breathing correctly but it was never brought up in any of the other workout classes or dance classes I had taken over the previous years.

After we attempted to count to 60 on one breath, the warm-up began with "I've got a Feeling" by the Black Eyed Peas playing in the background.  The warm-up included moves  like Chasses' to the left and right, triple steps, walking  from side to side and jumping up in the air, body rolls, and other movements that helped wake up the body.  Another upbeat song followed while the group stretched and then the 'Party Like It's Friday Night' began.    

Billy asked the group to form a square and as he announced each side, everyone cheered and took a turn doing a variety of moves demonstrated by Billy. While Billy was leading the group with his free-style moves, Sharon would pump up the crowd with fun bantering and assisted with the competitive moves. While this continued, dancers were selected from the group to come to the center of the square and dance.  If you are a little shy it's ok, you have up to three opportunities to back out but rarely does that happen.  The one thing that I noticed during class was that everyone was having a good time and unlike other classes I had taken before; there were actual smiles on the group's faces.  After the free-style activity ended we were then asked to go back to the floor where Sharon Blanks brought our heart rates up another level leading us with variety of high cardio moves such as running into place,  double punched knees, jumping jacks, etc, and continuing to remind the group to "Breath"!   After the cardio burst ended, the group was then taught a variety of dances by Billy Blanks Jr.  These dances vary from class to class including:  Salsa (Mambo, Volte, Samba, Shimmy Shake, and the Latin Lover), Flamenco (Planta, Tacone, and the Gulpe step), Country, Modern, Ballet, African, Tap, Bollywood, just to name a few and we even learned the actual choreography to "All That Jazz" from Chicago, a Janet Jackson video and Paula Abdul's video "Opposites Attract".   Many people in the class ranged from children to adults over 60 and were NOT trained dancers however, with Billy's amazing teaching style and experience as a choreographer, the group was able to easily pick up the dance steps and follow along.  About 10 to 15 minutes before the one hour class ended there was another cardio burst, followed by another salsa style dance and cool down where Sharon Catherine Blanks whose amazing voice has been heard from NYC to Los Angeles sang her original song "You Are Enough".   All the stress  that had built up inside of me lifted up off my shoulders and I even got goose bumps while the group cheered and clapped at the very end.  It's now been about seven months since my first "Dance with me Class" however my enthusiasm has not changed a bit and I am not only  attending  3-4 classes a week but have also participated in 2 different 4 –hour workouts  hosted by the Blanks.  Because you are able to burn 800-1000 calories in just one hour class, my body has shrunk down 2 sizes and I have lost about 20 lbs.  Billy and Sharon Catherine Blanks have designed a feel good workout that not only helps you lose weight but helps you get into the best shape you can be.  Per Sharon: We have to tell our bodies what we want it to do and we are working out hard not for just that special occasion or to fit into that bikini in the summer time, but FOR Life.  

This isn't  the first time The Blanks [Link Removed]   have had notoriety for their mega talents, Billy who was raised in entertainment and fitness environment and often led and taught fitness classes on behalf of his father (Tae Bo creator Billy Blanks) as early as the age of 12.  He starred as "Tyrone Jackson" in the US tour, FAME and untrained dancer he earned roles in music videos with Madonna, Crystal Method, Quincy Jones, Babyface, and Paula Abdul.  Billy's first program Cardioke created a worldwide media frenzy after an appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show and since then Billy has been featured on ABC, NBC, CNN, MTV, VH1, Fox, Endemol UK, Entertainment Tonight, E!, People Magazine, Shape, Style Network, AOL, Yahoo, and Ruby.

Sharon Catherine Blanks, the daughter of comedic actor, Johnny Brown, aka Mr. Bookman on the series "Good Times"   has been an many productions such as the "Seasons of Love" anthem in the West Coast Premiere of "Rent" and was handpicked by Frank Wildhorn as the first and only African American woman to play "Lucy" in his Broadway tour of "Jekyll and Hyde".   In addition to stage productions, Sharon played the role of "Etta Jones" in HBO's "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge" starring Halle Berry and is best known on television for playing the snooty opera diva on "A Different World".  On Broadway Sharon starred as "Effie" in "Dreamgirls" and "The Narrator" in "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat",   the drug addicted Sara in "The Playground", Bogus Moran in "One City" and the title role of "Tymothy" a rock musical written by her and Billy.

As a dancer Sharon has worked with such legends as Michael Peters, Jerry Mitchell, Debbie Allen, and Michael Bennet.  And was a singer for various projects by Aretha Franklin and Tina Turner.  Her Other film and TV credits include; Sister Act II, What's Love Got To Do With It?, Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and American Dreams.

Being hailed as The fitness industry's only power duo, Billy and his wife Sharon have taught together since the year 2000 and due to the excitement and high demand for their newest workout Billy Blanks Jr.'s "Dance With Me"  they are in the process creating their official certification program so that people across the US can experience what everyone is talking about. And are in partnership with Lionsgate and are proud to be Exercise TV's first official DVD for nationwide retail release towards the end of 2010.  Also Stay tuned for the release of their most anticipated work out DVD's BILLY BLANKS JR.'s "DANCE WITH ME- CARDIO FIT" and "DANCE WITH ME- GROOVE & BURN".  Billy and Sharon are also in the process of launching their two TV shows "Meet The Blanks" a lifestyle reality show and their own original show "America's Fit Party.  Even with all of this on their plate, their greatest  gift of all is being wonderful parents to adorable son Elijah and proud  aunt and uncle to nephew Levi Brown and Rocco and Titus Cimarosti.  Here is an example of what you will see in class

[Link Removed] Here is an example of what you will see&hl=en&fs=1&" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="344">

References: Professional Photos  of Billy Blanks Jr. and Sharon Catherine Blanks taken by Candace Colbert.

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