May 2019

Growing up Jazzercise

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Growing up Jazzercise

(Images from left: Staci on a 90s billboard, Staci with her mom, Staci with her two daughters.)

Growing up in the beautiful fray of Jazzercise is a magical thing. For starters, there’s never any shortage of dance music wafting through the house. There’s also tons of killer dance moves to learn and a huge, supportive community just a class away!

We asked some of our favorite Jazzercise kids what is was like growing up with instructor parents, to share some of their fondest memories, and how being a part of our tribe has influenced them into adulthood.

Who is your mom and how are you related to Jazzercise?

Marty: My mom is Mary Wadsworth, an instructor for over three decades. I was five years old when she started teaching at the Tomball Roller Rink in Cypress, Texas.

Staci: My mom is Dani Gresham and she has been an instructor almost my entire life. I was one year old when she started teaching.

Shanna: My mom is Judi Sheppard Missett - our founder and CEO. I was 10 months old when she taught what would become Jazzercise.

What are your first memories of Jazzercise?

Marty: My very first memory was in a makeshift babysitting room in a church during a Halloween Jazzercise class. My mother was dressed as Madonna and my father was dressed as Rambo. I hope this truly encapsulates why I turned out the way I did.

Staci: My first memories of Jazzercise go back to a church location (Church of the Cross) where my mom taught classes for years. I remember running around the big gym after classes and talking with all of the ladies.

Shanna: I remember being little and not realizing that not all moms put on tights and leotards and taught dance classes. After all the hours I’d spent playing in the corner of a class, I had no idea there was life outside of Jazzercise!

Are there any highlights or funny stories you can share?

Marty: Countless Junior Jazzercise recitals! My favorite was dancing to the “Ninja Rap” from “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2” by the legendary Vanilla Ice. I also remember doing a choreographed basketball routine with balls and members of my high school basketball team during a Jazzercise class. Were we “High School Musical” before there was “High School Musical”? You decide. Do I know the lyrics to EVERY popular 80s and 90s song because the sweet sounds were pulsing through the walls into the babysitting room every night of my childhood? Yes, yes I do.

What three ways did your parents involvement in the program impact your life?


1. Fitness and nutrition were ingrained into my brain. My parents taught me how to eat a balanced diet, about all the major muscle groups in the body and how to work them, and how to get up on a stage and talk to large groups of people.

2. My family’s work ethic is a direct result of mimicking what my mom did as an instructor.

3. I worked for my parents for over a decade and now stretch my creative muscles (that I admit I got from my mother) in advertising.

Jazzercise family
Marty and his family with Judi Sheppard Missett.


1. Drive and work ethic through Jazzercise. My mom showed me how important it is to work hard. My biggest fear is to let her down so I do my best to always give it my all.

2. Travel. My mom used to take us along on Jazzercise trips and to events.  

3. Comradery. The feeling you get from Jazzercise is like no other. It feels like an extended family.


1. Movement has always been a part of my life. It is normal and necessary.

2. I’ve always had amazing, beautiful and strong women in my life to look up to.

3. I’ve never thought that I couldn’t do exactly what I wanted to do and LOVE it and be successful.

If you have kids, how does Jazzercise impact your kids today?

Staci: I love that my girls see that fitness and nutrition are such a big part of my life. I have been teaching Jazzercise their whole lives so they are growing up knowing the importance of exercise.

Shanna: Jazzercise majorly impacts my daughters Skyla and Sienna - both of whom are competitive dancers. They’re so proud of their “Jammy” (what they call my mom) and have even set a world record for the largest class taught by kids in Hiroshima, Japan.

How do you think growing up with this tribe around you impacted your own adult life?

Marty: I learned at a very young age that it takes a village to achieve your fitness goals. I want you to read that again. It takes a village  for YOU to achieve perceived success.

Staci: Some of my greatest role models, aside from my mom, are due to Jazzercise. She made some of her best friends in Jazzercise and they have made a giant impact on my life and are now impacting my girls’ lives.

Shanna: This incredible community of women has seen me, my mom, and each other through everything. We’ve had customers and instructors go through cancer, divorce, and so many other life changes here, where they’ve been supported, and accepted in whatever state they are, for whoever they are. I really believe the love of this community changes lives. Not to mention the health benefits of exercise.

What do you want people who either have never heard of us or aren’t part of the Jazzercise family to know about us?

Marty: It’s more than a fitness program, it’s a family.

Staci: I want them to know how kick ass our classes are and that they won’t find another program like ours. It is more than just a fitness program, it is a that will hold you accountable and miss you when you aren’t in class.

Shanna: We are contemporary, modern, effective and FUN. You may come for the workout or to lose weight, but what you will get are amazing relationships that are so special and different. I know when someone thinks about working out they don’t think about relationships, but it is our “secret sauce” and I want more people to try our sauce!

What’s your “growing up with Jazzercise” story? Tell us below!

Karen Downey
I am an ole jazzercise instructor back in 81.
In fact I started Jazzercise in Pueblo Colorado. I had to quit due to health reasons.
I have moved back to El Cajon California and started attending jazzercise classes again after 35 years. It has gotten so much more efficient and Hi-Tech. The pace has picked up and weights have been added. I have to say after two months I am really really happy to be back. Jazzercise is for all sexes all sizes and all ages. Karen Downey
2/22/2020 3:28:44 PM

Tawana Cooper
I was a faithful jazzerciser for over 20 years. And when I say faithful I meant I was going to class every single day-- Monday through Sunday. I had instructor that taught everyday and sometimes I would do back-to-back classes because she offered 3 or 4 classes in the evening and I would often times stay and go to the next class. I loved it!! I was addicted-it's felt great! My schedule changed because I was traveling a lot which prevented me from going to class but that was the days of the boom Box so I would purchase jazzercise albums and tape them on cassette tapes and use those in my hotel room! And then I got in a car accidents where I had some nerve damage so I was unable to exercise for a while and then I got diagnosed with lupus so my world just changed. I still miss it terribly and I do really miss the old format of jazzercise. I miss the old music. I wish somebody would you a retro jazzercise class like a do a marathon. Like they used to do marathons -a 4 hour class which was a benefit some charity. Do one of those and use old music! Old jazzercise routines have like a 4 hour one. I'd be there and I think a lot of other people would be too!!
10/20/2019 2:17:08 PM

Monica Bauer
The common theme throughout is that we are a FAMILY. Through all the chapters of life my Jazzercise family has been there to support me. I can not thank my mom enough for finding Judi many years ago in a school cafeteria and instilling the value of exercise in me. My mom is the reason I teach today and have been teaching since the late '90's.
I was blessed to grow up with Jazzercise and work at the Corporate office after college. I thank Judi & Shanna for all the adventures - I experienced my first International travels with them, conventions, and got to see so many STRONG women leaders that molded me to become the woman I am today.
Thank you JAZZERCISE! 50 years strong (& counting)!!
5/17/2019 5:42:58 PM

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