Iowa City’s Jazzercise center turns over to new owners

Iowa City’s Jazzercise studio has found new co-owners who hope to ensure a rewarding and enjoyable workout experience for the Jazzercise community.

Stella Shipman, Arts Reporter


It’s not hard to get your groove on during a Jazzercise class when the instructor blasts Lizzo on the speakers and hops into steps with vibrant pep. 

Mariah Ruyle, new co-owner of Iowa City’s Jazzercise fitness center on Gilbert Street, guided Wednesday’s early morning “DanceMIXX” group through upbeat choreography set to some of today’s most popular songs. 

Every routine was just as accessible to the younger people in the back of the studio as it was to the older women at the front of the room. Together, they all shook their hips, dipped into pliés, and jumped toward the ceiling. 

Ruyle, who just celebrated her fourteenth year as a fitness instructor, explained Jazzercise instructors must choose choreography routines from a certain set of options that the Jazzercise corporate company assembles, but they can control the music that the choreography is set to. 

“Every instructor’s class is a little expression of their own personality,” Amanda Goodrich, co-owner alongside Ruyle, stated. 

Goodrich said as an instructor, “you have a relationship with your customers.” Jazzercisers get to know each instructor’s style so that they can be sure they are getting the best workout with whom they prefer.  

Dating back to its founding in 1969 by Judi Shepherd Missett, Jazzercise has been an all-inclusive exercise that combines the fun of dance with various types of healthy, active training like cardio, strength, and HIIT. 

Sonja Strathearn, a two-year regular at Jazzercise in Iowa City, said she lost 50 pounds last year with classes. She loves coming to class for the opportunity to dance and engage in the social atmosphere. 

“When someone walks in our door, I want them to feel comfortable, I want them to feel like they can forget about their day for a minute, see a friendly face, and sweat, and feel better about themselves when they walk out the door,” Ruyle said. 

The former owner of Iowa City’s Jazzercise, Kristi Bontrager, who continues to work at the business as an instructor, saw the business through the onset of COVID-19. The fitness center adapted to quarantine with Zoom calls and live streams, as well as occasional outdoor classes. Though Jazzercise lost customers who preferred to be in-person, hardcore regulars continued to stream and later returned in person when they could. 

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Thanks to a steadfast community of dancers, the Jazzercise studio survived COVID-19 and is better than ever. As life returned to a semblance of what it was before COVID-19, the business changed hands, so the studio’s previous owners could pursue different life paths. Goodrich and Ruyle officially replaced the former owners on July 1. 

“When Amanda and Mariah decided to step up, I was thrilled because clearly, they have energy, you know, they have just got that special spark that draws people to them,” Bontrager said. The Jazzercise community seems to agree. 

Ruyle explained gleefully how “welcoming and amazing” the Jazzercise community has been.  Ruyle and Bontrager’s dancers even created an endearing combined “ship name” for them to use when reaching out about class: “Maranda.” 

“Maranda” said they can barely contain their excitement about the future, with solid confidence in the business and its presence in the community of Iowa City as a whole. Their intentions are to ensure every Jazzerciser simply enjoys themselves and walks out of class feeling stronger. 

”My motto is I want everyone to walk out of my class feeling like a more powerful goddess,” Goodrich said. 

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