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In the varied and vast landscape of dance cardio, there are players and there are leaders. AKT inMotion, the brain-child of trainer and entrepreneur Anna Kaiser, long ago cemented itself at the front of the pack.
You can't mention Kaiser's studio — or mega-popular studios like Bari, Body By Simone and DanceBody, for that matter — without mentioning Tracy Anderson, the mother of all things nue-jazzercise. All at one point have been on her payroll; all have since adapted and debatably improved upon the method that built (but not bulked!) Gwyneth, among others. Only thing is, Anna's not just a disciple — she is her former chief content officer, having played a part in creating Tracy's choreography.
For the casual visitor to her Hamptons, Connecticut or NYC studios, the namesake herself remains somewhat of a myth. Some days, she's off training with Shakira or Sarah Jessica Parker; others, she's prepping segments for TV, at times with her close personal client-friend Kelly Ripa. Next month, she'll join the ranks of broadcast trainers like Jillian Michaels when she appears on ABC's "My Diet Is Better Than Yours" alongside Shaun T, the man known for making you feel bad about Seamless-ing a cheese quesadilla in his aggressive late-night infomercials for Insanity. She is a celebrity trainer in the deepest way— a quick YouTube search brings up endless do-it-at-home tutorials from every women's publication with a camera — and therefore, her presence is akin to the Wizard of Oz: you can feel it, but unless you land an impossible-to-get appointment, you may never meet face-to-face.
Though few have directly praised her for it, the woman is a fitness futurist, always on top of knowing what's next. AKT inMotion offers streaming memberships for $50 a month to the tech-savvy while selling DVDs of classes to the dinosaurs. Her YouTube channel contains a bonanza of specialized exercises, like arm workouts for brides and stretches for desk jockeys. She single-handedly developed an innovative treadmill workout called AKTread, guaranteed to make you look like a maniac at your hometown gym but fitter than the former classmates you'll run into there.
It's no surprise with such perspective that her unique dance cardio format has hooked plenty of regulars, namely affluent women beyond their twenties sporting midsections of their youth. Anna Kaiser's first New York City studio, dubbed The Factory, opened in 2013 following the success of classes at a downtown dance space. The space has an air of exclusivity, though anyone can buy class packages or memberships (the studio was also on Classpass until recently). The second Manhattan location, complete with bouncing floors, opened its doors and somewhat odd-sized classrooms in Nomad last month.
Yet the thing that defines AKT inMotion is neither the chaines turn-filled choreo nor those slightly springy floors. It's how seriously everyone takes what they're doing — this is not just a workout class. Even in terms of teacher certification, they don't mess around: Instructors are required to be NASM-certified, have an educational background in anatomy and kinesiology, and have been a dancer for at least five years. For the uninitiated, this is like Phil Jackson coaching your competitive social basketball league, and thus proof that you'll never be dancing with a dud (good thing, since you're probably paying upwards of 30 bucks to be there).
It's no surprise that her unique dance cardio format has hooked plenty of regulars, namely affluent women beyond their twenties sporting midsections of their youth
Her method consists of six core classes, with the main two featuring her famed approach to dance cardio: AKTease, which is introductory-level, and Happy Hour, a more challenging, progressive class. Then there are two strength classes: 4Play, which focuses on high-intensity circuit training and AKTone, a barre and pilates-inspired workout. And then, of course, there are the mash-ups, like Sweat Dream (a mix between 4Play and Happy Hour), and the king of them all, Progressive Happy Hour, a top-level 75-minute mix of strength training and dance that advances week to week.
Sounds like a mouthful? It is. I had the class concepts and choreography schedules explained to me twice and I'm still completely confused. The routines change every two weeks, I think, and oh lord, I have a headache.
Even a seasoned dancer could find herself lost within the whirlwind that is Happy Hour, which skips from the introductory AKTease right into advanced. It is, simply put, not for the faint of heart. The class I went to at the Nomad studio was packed with die-hards, the kind of women who evangelize this (the look of defeat on one woman's face mid-turn before she early-exited a Factory class last year is forever burned into my brain). If you don't have your legs about you, AKTease will be tricky, and Happy Hour will be damn near impossible.
While DanceBody has fully choreographed dances for each song and Bari lets guests follow the leader for combo series, AKT ingeniously fools you into learning an entire dance number without realizing it. The combos slowly build up until the end of class, when you're running through a full routine without the panic of being three eight-counts in and forgetting how it started. In the lower-speed class, it's helpful — repetition leads to success! — but when it's advanced, it becomes a body dyslexic's worst nightmare. You'll get three counts of eight to learn it and then boom, it's yours — and you better be ready to reverse it on the opposite side.
AKT ingeniously fools you into learning an entire dance number without realizing it
The cardio sections are between short toning breaks, which is nice for the stamina-averse even though it makes class feel longer. Either way, it's the trifecta of the genre: you'll work like a dancer, tone like an athlete, and burn calories like a forgotten pizza oven. You'll leave beet-faced and so sweaty that your coat will need dry cleaning, but because of its interval nature, you'll still have energy left over.
It's challenging, it's interesting, and it's somewhat luxe. It's everything dance cardio is — and what so many aspire to be.