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’91 grad to teach at international Jazzercise event

Stacie (Fleshman) Barnes ’91 fell in love with Jazzercise the first time she tried it more than 20 years ago, and now she is celebrating her 20th anniversary as a certified instructor along with the 50th anniversary of the dance-based fitness company. Barnes also is a Jazzercise franchise owner and will be part of the company’s international celebration in June as an instructor for its East vs. West program.

Barnes will be one of many presenters at the company’s 50 Years Strong Celebration in San Diego, Calif., which will include two full days of exercise classes for Jazzercise instructors and the public. She was selected after submitting a video of her instruction technique and is honored and thrilled to be a part of the event, she said.

“I’m just really excited,” she said. “Being up in front of thousands of people will be a way different experience than being in front of a class of 40 or 45 people.”

Barnes is confident she will be well prepared for the large class because Jazzercise will provide her with the music and choreography, just as the company does for all the routines taught at its 8,200 franchises worldwide. She also will receive free exercise wear and likely a pair of athletic shoes. She has attended several events for Jazzercise instructors over the years, but this is her first time to lead a class.

Barnes attended her first Jazzercise class in 1998 in New Albany at the invitation of her friend and classmate Tricia (Stiller) Kirchgessner ’91. Immediately, Barnes loved the dance-based fitness program. Within a year, she went through the training process and auditioned to become an instructor at the owner level because she saw the advantage of owning her own franchise.

After teaching in downtown New Albany for a while, she opened the first Jazzercise franchise in Corydon at the historic Leora Brown School. She taught classes three days a week as the site’s only instructor. After 18 months, though, she decided she wanted to return to college. Having previously received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Indiana University Southeast in 1995, she enrolled in the University of Louisville to study speech and language pathology.

While she was taking college classes, Barnes continued to teach Jazzercise as a substitute instructor. Then came an opportunity to become an instructor at a Jazzercise franchise in Prospect, Ky. She had moved to Louisville by that time, so she took on that role. When the owner wanted to sell the franchise, she realized she missed owning her own business and took advantage of the opportunity in June 2008.

In late 2011, she purchased a second franchise with the intention of merging the two locations. Operating two locations meant she had to hold classes on separate nights so that she could be at each location, even with other instructors to help teach. Merging, however, allowed her to increase the number of instructors and the number of classes offered. Additionally, the Prospect location was in a church basement, and signage ordinances prevented her from posting a sign on the exterior or in front of the building, so growth there was limited to word of mouth.

“It just made better business sense,” Barnes said.

With that purchase, she decided to lease space in the Holiday Manor shopping center on Brownsboro Road in Louisville. Signing a lease was a big step up from renting a room in a church basement and a bit intimidating, Barnes said. The lease was for five years and a commitment to build her business to make the monthly payment.

“I had to take a leap of faith, and I had to say, ‘I want this,’” she said.

Her Jazzercise Louisville East Premier Fitness Center has been a success from the beginning. It’s location in a highly visible and high traffic strip mall attracts plenty of new customers, she said

“That’s been a key component to our success,” Barnes said.

Three years ago, she bought the Jazzercise Jeffersonville Fitness Center, located on 10th Street next to Maxwell’s House of Music. She owned both locations for a little over a year until her husband lost his job and she needed to take on a second job to help out. She sold the Jeffersonville location but continues to operate the Louisville East location.

Barnes said she loves being a part of the Jazzercise company and being an instructor. The company provides marketing materials and administrative support as well as choreographed lessons and music. Each class is tailored to target various muscles and provide aerobic exercise in a fun atmosphere while offering low to high impact options as well as strength training. Thirty new choreographed lessons arrive every six weeks, which keeps the routines and music fresh for students and instructors.

During her two decades as a certified instructor, Barnes met and married her husband, Chad, and had a daughter who is now 11. For a time, her husband, who is a ballroom dance instructor, also was a certified Jazzercise instructor at her fitness center. She hopes someday her daughter will join her as an instructor and maybe even take over the business.

Barnes also is an assessment coordinator for the Jazzercise Training & Development Department. She views submitted videos of instructors around the world and offers coaching to help them improve their technique. Being able to talk with instructors from other countries, people she never would have met otherwise, is just one of the many things she loves about her business.

As for the 50 Years Strong Celebration in June, Barnes and her family are looking forward to making it a vacation. And she is looking forward to teaching in front of her peers. It’s the culmination of all her efforts over the years, doing a job that doesn’t feel like work.

“I absolutely love Jazzercise,” Barnes said. “I don’t know what I would do without it. It’s been with me 20 years. I found what I love.”

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