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Yvonne Lewis, pictured in 1983 when she became a certified Jazzercise instructor, is retiring after 37 years of teaching Jazzercise and owning the Jazzercise Fraser Fitness Studio in Fraser.
Photo provided by Lori McFateAdvertisement
FRASER — Fraser dance and fitness fans wished the best of luck to a longtime local business owner, Yvonne Lewis, as she hosted her final class at the Jazzercise Fraser Fitness Studio on Jan. 30.
To celebrate, Lewis hosted a “Last Dance and Mimosas” event that day. Family, friends and both current and past students gathered for the class and an open house to commemorate her retirement.
“Jazzercise is in my blood; it is part of who I was all those years ago, who I am today and who I will always be,” wrote Lewis. “There is more to Jazzercise than just fitness. We are family, we are a community and we are about helping each other and supporting each other.”
Jazzercise is a fitness franchise company founded by Judi Sheppard Missett in 1968. Fans enjoy it for the combination of dance, strength and resistance training with popular music for a full-body workout class. Lewis was first introduced to Jazzercise in 1983 by her sister, Connie Newton. After finding how much she missed the classes when she was on maternity leave that year, she traveled to Washington, D.C., to become a certified instructor — an achievement that only 20% of those who took the class would attain.
Lewis even met Missett, which she said was a huge thrill.
“What I remember about her is her positive, energetic personality,” said Lewis. “I was able to get her autograph on a Jazzercise poster that day. It hung in the studio for years and was a great topic of conversation with students.”
After being a student and instructor, Lewis went on to own her own Jazzercise franchise. She has taught thousands of classes to thousands of students in many different studios across Michigan. From the Warren Elks Club to Fraser Hockeyland, to the current Jazzercise Fraser Fitness Studio, she has graced the stages, sharing her love of dance and music with family and friends, and even strangers.
“Lewis was teaching a Jazzercise class during the day and delivered her son Anthony later that evening,” wrote student and friend Lori McFate. “As a studio owner/operator, Lewis has poured her heart and soul into Jazzercise Fraser. She has always done her own marketing, cleaning, class scheduling, training of new instructors, client management and building management. Many think being a Jazzercise instructor is only about dancing and burning calories. If you have spent any amount of time with Lewis, you know she wants perfection in all aspects of the business.”
Many of her students expressed their admiration and appreciation for her many years teaching in the community.
“We always know Yvonne cares about us,” said Sheryl Vitale, a close friend and Jazzercise student. “She makes sure students and Jazzercise trainees are doing the moves correctly to burn calories, protect our bodies from injuries and build muscle.”
Ginger Christofus-Roehr, a close friend and Jazzercise student, says the Jazzercise Fraser Fitness Studio has been a great pillar of the community, and Lewis has been the reason for that.
“We do more than dance; we connect with each other,” Christofus-Roehr said. “Yvonne makes sure that everyone feels invited and welcome in her studio and in her classes.”
Lewis has trained several new Jazzercise Instructors over the years, including Cheryl LaCasse, who took over the Jazzercise Fraser Fitness Studio from Lewis beginning Feb. 1.
Several times each year, Jazzercise Inc. provides instructors with new music and new routines. This means any Jazzercise studio is teaching the same choreography, no matter where the studio is located or who is teaching the class. To make sure she is adequately learning and teaching, Lewis has gone through yearly evaluations and has had to submit videos to Jazzercise Inc.
“To be a franchise owner, we have to do the routines the right way, in a safe manner,” said Lewis. “It is a chance to show off my moves, my passion and my energy to those who create the routines.”
When asked about some of her favorite memories over the past 37 years, Lewis mentioned career highlights, like performing the halftime show during Detroit Lions games; doing Jazzercise demo routines for fundraising events like the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Race for the Cure and Vietnam Veterans; and being voted as Business Owner of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce for Fraser, Roseville and Eastpointe.
What she said she will miss most is getting to see her friends and take part in activities with them so often.
“I couldn’t be more grateful for the 37 years of friendship,” wrote Lewis. “We’ve danced, shared good and bad times together, collected tennis shoes for pediatric cancer patients, provided books for children in need at Christmas, raised funds for canine rescue centers, raised our kids together, ran half marathons together and so much more — all in the name of Jazzercise!”Advertisement