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Womans' World: Aerobic Dancing: 'hips, hips' away!

By PATRICIA McCORMACK, UPI Health Editor

If you are 35 pounds overweight -- or less, aerobic dancing might be your ideal way to hips-hips away, to hear Jacki Sorensen, creator of the 'fitness sport,' tell it.

Persons overweight more than that need to try some other method. For the grossly obese, Sorensen claims, aerobic dancing could be dangerous.

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Aerobic dancing combines the cardio-vascular benefits of jogging with the fun and vigor of dancing. Sorensen choreographs dance routines to music from the Ragtime '20s to the dancin' 80s.

Aerobic dancing makes the body work hard. That's why it's not for the people with more than 35 pounds over the stated weight for size and sex on the Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. weight table, Sorensen says.

Sorensen says aerobic dancing pushes muscles and body systems, including cardiac and respiratory. Aerobic dancing could make the grossly overweight push their fat-padded anatomy beyond safe limits, Sorensen says.

While telling about this the other day, Sorenson demonstrated aerobic dancing a bit. She hopped up and down and swung her arms, windmill fashion and, well, every which way.

She had on support tights with long legs. Support pantyhose. Stretch white shorts whe designed. And a red T-shirt, also out of her fashion line. The shoes looked like a combination of tennis and deck on the bottom. The tops resembled jogging shoes.

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'Shoes must allow for sideways movement,' she said. 'Jogging shoes don't and that's why tennis shoes work for us.'

Sorensen, who can't seem to keep still a minute, is the middle of a movement she started 10 years ago. Aerobic dancing.

She was 28 and an Air Force wife. A decade later, she could pass for 28. Aerobic dancing has helped her hold back the hands of time that gently start to age the body by 38.

Before aerobic dancing, Sorensen was a dancer -- trained from the age of six. She took 14 classes a week until she was 21.

'Tumbling, dancing, ballet, tap, everything,' she said. She liked best tapdancing to fast music while jumping rope.

All this training was meant to head her to a dancing career.

'But I'm only 5-feet-4,' she said. 'And dancers need to be 5-feet-7.'

She's pleased, of course, that her fame and fortune these days are spin offs of all that hard work in dance classes through the years.

Sorensen's aerobic dancing has caught on. From one class for Air Force wives at Ramey Air Force Base in Puerto Rico in 1969 to 170,000 actively enrolled in aerobic dancing classes right now and many, many times that number -- all alumni of such courses -- aerobic dancing in their homes three times a week.

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There are, Sorensen says, 4,000 instructors and the movement has spread to Japan and Australia.

The Jacki Sorensen Aerobic Dancing enterprise grew when she and her husband moved to South Orange, N.J.. She started a class at the YMCA. Within three months, one class of six grew to two of 25 students each.

Word got around. More classes were started. Sorensen taught also at Bloomfield College and Seton Hall University, both in New Jersey.

Then Sorensen was tapped for the traveling clinician team of the President's Council on Physical Fitnesss and Sports. That gave her the chance to teach aerobic dancing to hundreds of elementary and secondary school teachers and college students nationwide.

By 1972, Sorensen and her husband, Neil, headed back to California - where they had started. (She was a pompon girl from Berkeley and he was the leader of the college band when they fell in love.)

'I couldn't just throw away what had developed in New Jersey,' she said. 'I needed to hire and train instructors to carry on. That was the start of Jacki Sorensen Aerobic Dancing Inc. Aerobic dancing wasn't a hobby anymore.

'It was a business that needed a lot of loving atention.'

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Sorensen's husband is vice president and chief financial officer. She is chairman of the board.

So what's aerobics?

The word means 'with oxygen.' Dr. Kenneth Cooper invented aerobic exercises and fashioned from them the now famed Air Force Physical Fitness Program.

Cooper showed how aerobic exercises strengthen the heart muscle by making the body demand increased amounts of oxygen over an extended period of time.

Before she created aerobic dancing, Sorensen said she took Cooper's 12-minute fitness test, considered tough. She passed it with practically no effort.

'I realized breezing through the test was probably due to my life as a dancer,' she said.

At that instant -- as cartoonists view the inventing process -- a light went on over Sorensen's head. Why not aerobic dancing? The words pranced 'round and 'round in her cranium. So did tunes. And dance steps.

Sorensen next choreographed a set of vigorous dances to upbeat music. She packed them into a 12-week session. It wasn't exactly 'presto' -- but at that point, Sorensen said, aerobic dancing was born.

Milestones on her road to fame include:

-'Aerobic Dancing' (Rawson, Wade) bought by 250,000. The large paperback version of the tome co-authored by Bill Bruns and Sorensen is just out. For $18.95 there's also a record or cassette tape of selected music with instructions.

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-Nationwide network of classes. Twelve-week sessions ('You're addicted after 12 weeks') of two or three 45- to 60-minute classes per week. All choreographed. Every 12 weeks Sorensen choreographs different routines to different music. 'This keeps aerobic dancing fun and challenging.)

-Awards. First non-Texan to receive the Texas Honor Award from the Governor's Commission on Physical Fitness. Diamond Heart Pin from San Diego Chapter of the American Heart Association. The 1980 Honor Award from the American Association of Fitness Directors in Business and Industry.

Sorensen, a member of the advisory board of the Women's Sports Foundation, was was in on the recent White House Symposium on Physical Fitness.

This year, Jacki Sorensen Aerobic Dancing is helping out the Special Olympics with Danceathon '81.

'A danceathon,' she said 'is a four-hour event held in a gym-like facility. Each dancer asks for pledges for aerobic dances performed during the event.

'Fifty dances are possible. The only breaks are 10-minute ones, only one per hour. After the danceathon participants return to their sponsors to collect money pledged.

'More than 100 danceathons will take place Nov. 21-22. We expect a range of from 300 to 6,000 dancers, instructors and students, at each danceathon.'

The instructors, by the way, must learn and teach over 40 new aerobic dances a year, pass a 12-minute cardiovascular endurance running test two times a year, maintain a lean weight, be a non-smoker.

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And they must be certified in CPR, cardio-pulmonary resuscitation.

Other points from Sorensen:

-What's in aerobic dancing for you? 'It's guaranteed you'll burn calories and gradually lose weight and inches. In the middle of the 12-week course, you will notice more energy every day. You will look and feel better. After 12 weeks you're addicted. You will always remember how terrific you feel. Once you get a taste of that, you can't live without it.'

-'Aerobic dancing for most people means getting really fit for the first time.'

-She's working on a television deal, can't talk about it now but expects to be wrap it up next month.

-Aerobic dancing for males is different than that for females. 'I've put in more macho arm movements. Where women stretch arms out, palms up, I've substituted pushing motions. Men don't like to turn their palms up.'

-Next on the drawing board? Maybe wet aerobic dancing, to be performed in a shallow pool.

-'I don't allow mirrors in class. I want all the dancers to feel they're Ginger Rogers.'

-'All my instructors wear support hose because it makes the legs feel and look better. If you look bettter, you'll feel better.'

-For those not able to participate in regular aerobic dancing courses, there is now 'Jacki Sorensen 'Lite' Aerobic Dancing' (dancing patterns at a slower pace). 'One of my instructors said aerobic dancing 'Lite' is something like 'Lite' beer. We took the hops out!'

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adv for fri oct.

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