Student Spotlight: No Senior Moments on the Dance Floor

Jo-Ann Braverman, center, shows off her POUND skills at our recent “Taste of Philly Dance Fitness” workshop.

After reviewing the results from our Holiday Bingo Challenge, we were particularly impressed by one of our more senior members — Jo-Ann Braverman. This superstar Center City attorney took a whopping 29 classes during the 5-week challenge, easily outlasting many of our younger students! Read on to learn about Jo’s drive to stay fit and why her passion for dance will never fade.

Philly Dance Fitness: What is your background with dance?

Jo-Ann Braverman: I started taking dance lessons when I was 3 years old. I was so shy that if anyone outside my family tried to talk to me, I would have a crying meltdown. Since this was pre-pre-school, I suppose it was an attempt at socialization. While in the beginning I would watch from afar in my pink tutu — and cry if someone tried to engage me — I ultimately joined in and continued with ballet, toe, tap and jazz for about 10 years. While I never had any talent [Editor’s Note: We’d beg to differ!], I enjoyed both the sense of community and accomplishment.

How did you end up becoming a member of Philly Dance Fitness?

There was a huge snowstorm in February 2014. I don’t remember where I saw the ad, but PDF had a discounted $6 drop-in fee for Zumba on South Street that night, which is half a block away from me. And as they say, the rest is history. I’ve always been a high-impact aerobics nut, so PDF has provided an extension of that. I come from “bad genes,” as my parents died in their 50s, and I’m able to maintain a healthier lifestyle when I can have as consistent of a workout routine as I do with PDF.

What has kept you coming back all these years?

Gyms don’t really work for me as I need an organized start and finish time or it will be an hour later and I will have stared out the window for the hour. I really thrive on the number and variety of classes offered by PDF, which makes it more feasible to work into my inconsistent schedule. Also, PDF has become my dance family, and I look forward to seeing fellow PDF-ers. It’s both a body and mind connection: For 50 minutes I can think of nothing except trying to go in the correct direction. For me, it’s a major stress reducer.

What do you do when you’re not dancing?

I’m an attorney. Half of my practice involves working for the city representing either parents or children in abuse and neglect cases, with the private portion of my practice in family law (divorce, custody, support, etc). For 10 years I was a commissioner on Philadelphia’s Commission on Human Relations.  I’m also in the initial stages of working with an animal rights organization in New York to help draft new legislation related to pitbulls. My fantasy is to be adopted by Jon Stewart and work at the animal sanctuary he’s planning to open in North Jersey. I love working and living in the city and experiencing all that Philadelphia has to offer. My two wonderful fur cat kids “allow me” to reside with them.

Tell us about your favorite dance class. Why do you love it?

Dance Party Boot Camp. It’s the most challenging and the best workout for me. The instructors are a hoot, not to mention extremely inclusive, making you think you’re the best dancer to come along since Baryshnikov. Now I’m showing my age, I should probably come up with some hip-hopper. I also love Zumba, which got me back into taking classes when I had stopped working out for a while. But I still have no rhythm and can’t twerk for the life of me.

Are there any classes you have yet to try?

Though I would love to get back to ballet, I have had vertigo 24/7 for the last three years, which at its most benign state has a very negative impact on my balance. So ballet seems to be out. I’ve tried almost all the other classes and keep with the ones I can adapt to my limitations best. It’s also why I plop myself up front. Besides being vertically challenged, too much visual stimuli sends me into vertigo hell so I apologize to anyone who thinks I hog the front. I would love a weight class…hint hint…

Well, you already have incredible muscles! Do you train or exercise outside of our studios? 

Thanks for the compliment. They are actually falling along with everything else! I used to weight train — nothing major — in my “youth,” but now I just throw around weights at home. Us baby boomers need weight-bearing types of exercise as we “ripen” and it’s hard to find any class in the area that meets my needs. I can’t hang by sheaths of fabric; kickboxing with a punching bag doesn’t work with my vertigo. I need just a good old-fashioned workout with weights or bands, which we actually did in Dance Party Boot Camp recently!

Do you find any advantages to being one of the older dancers in the room?

Not really! Perhaps seeing that I can make it through a class and stick with it could inspire others that they certainly can do so, too. I remember my very first Zumba class after not working out for a long time. The instructor was trying to give me constructive input  and all I could think was, “I can’t breathe right now…l can’t really hear you…If I don’t die before the end of class, I’ll try to do it correctly next time.” Now I can breathe and happily make it through class.

Speaking of inspiration, do you have any advice for other baby boomers who might want to dance but feel intimidated by a studio filled with mostly younger people?

Find something you think you may enjoy and try it a few times. One class isn’t going to do it. You’ll end up looking forward to it! PDF is so welcoming, from the staff to the other students, that I never felt any intimidation. It’s not a “soccer mom” type of studio and envelopes all types of people, as far as age and fitness levels, shapes, sizes, etc. Their focus on just having a good time brings you in and eliminates any degree of intimidation.

– Interview by multimedia marketing intern Caroline Scheinfeld, edited for brevity and clarity

Stay tuned for more articles highlighting our amazing students and staff. If you know someone who has a good story to share — or perhaps you’d like to nominate yourself! — send a note to  gabby@phillydancefitness.com.

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