by Lonni Leavitt-Barker, photos by Jim Peterson
Who would ever expect a dance class in Eagle, Idaho to attract students from as far away as Tokyo and Poland or Indonesia and Jerusalem? The Shine Dance Fitness classes are doing just that—emerging as a United Nations of sorts when it comes to dance workout sessions.
Kendall Nielsen started with her first class and five women back in 2009. Her business has now grown into a small empire. She teaches four classes a week to a core of about 300 local women at the Eagle Performing Arts Center. But it is technology that has made her into an international guru. She has millions of hits on her YouTube videos and more than 37 thousand subscribers who follow along and dance from home. Many of them come from every corner of the world.
Not bad for a woman who used to shun sweat. “Ten years ago, I was in real estate, doing great but totally out of shape. I never worked out. So I get it. I get how hard it is,” said Nielsen about taking that first step toward getting in shape. “The hardest part is just getting up and getting there.”
Nielsen says her secret is making working out not about work but about having fun. “It is like a party, a sisterhood with lots of camaraderie. We want women to feel youthful, sexy, feminine, and empowered,” said Nielsen.
Her website is peppered with all kinds of glowing testimonials. Some love the retro moves choreographed to current music, while others are thankful for the weight they’ve lost or the confidence they’ve gained. “The testimonials make my jaw drop,” said Nielsen. “Some say these classes take them away from loneliness, some say they can escape from real life trials—it is therapeutic.”
Her classes are designed for all abilities and all levels. And perhaps that’s part of her appeal. She makes sure everyone feels welcome. Her students are her friends—a group of women who go on retreats together, go out to dinner, and rally around each other when one of their own is in a crisis.
Those same friends, her students, are the ones who have encouraged her to put her videos on YouTube, license her classes, and certify other instructors to teach Shine at Axiom and Kaifit (a fitness organization with 60 different locations). And to plan a two-day retreat in Arizona where she can meet in person many of her subscribers.
With her international following growing quickly, where does Nielsen see her business in five years? “Honestly I don’t have a clue. The women just show up; it is totally up to them to see where they lead this,” said Nielsen.
Those women have done perfectly fine so far. You don’t have to look far to tell she’s in good hands.
For more information about Shine Dance Fitness go to ShineDanceFitness.com.