WNK: How did you get started in the fitness field?
KA: In about 1980 I joined an aerobic class on a "dare" from a fellow waitress. I had a hard time believing at that time that anything could be more difficult than my dance training. I truly felt that I was in the best condition I could possibly be in. I was humbled by the workout and absolutely loved the idea of exercise to upbeat music. I was hooked from the start. Within a year I was approached by the club management as to whether I would also like to teach. In those days, there were only 2 instructors in the whole Seattle area, that I knew of, and interest in aerobics was booming. I thought it sounded like fun so I began my journey.
WNK: Tell me more about your background in ballet. Why did you decide not to make dancing your career?
KA: I started ballet when I was five and studied seriously here in Seattle all the way through high school. I then received a scholarship to study with the school of The Joffrey Ballet and left for NY the summer after graduating. To be honest, leaving my family and friends was extremely difficult. The dancer's life, on my own, wasn't giving me the happiness I had been looking for. I also got caught up in dangerous dieting habits with other dancers in order to compete. When I look back now, I left New York, and the dance world, to save my life.
WNK: I hadn't realized that you were a national gold medalist in synchronized swimming, too! Did you earn that before or after your dance training?
KA: I began doing "Water Ballet" at a summer pool when I was about 10 yrs old. I found I had a natural love, and I guess some talent, for it right away. I began to train all year long sometimes 6 hours every day, along with my ballet classes 5 days a week (and school of course). Our team ended up competing on a national level and we eventually won the gold medal for the team event in the Jr. Nationals in California. We used to joke about our sport some day becoming an Olympic event. It really seemed out of the realm of possiblilites in those days. I ended up having to choose between the land or water because both were demanding my full attention in order to go any further. I chose the land.
WNK: Some video exercisers claim to have two left feet--that they're a bit intimidated by your dancy choreography. Do you have any tips for learning complex choreography?
KA: Anyone who feels they have "two left feet" I would encourage to be patient and persistent. I wish I could work with them in person because I know I could be of more personal help. You have to approach "aerobics" like you would any new sport. Allow yourself time to learn the basics first. Let your body master the new skills one at a time. Developing coordination, rhythm, and technique is inherent in any sport. The more you work at it, the better you get. Most of my videos are created for exercisers who know the basics and now want more of a challenge.
On another note, so many of our low impact moves are "dance" by nature...a grapevine, a step touch...they're all dance moves. As soon as instructors were criticized for too much high impact in the 80's, aerobics began to get more "dancy". Obviously because of all my dance training if I do a grapevine I'll probably point my toes and turn it out a bit. I have a tendency to look dancy when I'm standing still!
The bottom line is don't allow yourself to be intimidated by any choreography. If an instructor teaches a good progression, it's just a matter of time before you get it. I bet that every time a person practices a move, the better they get...isn't that what fitness and sports is all about?
I've never been one to be content with doing something that I pick up right away...where's the challenge, the risk and the reward in that? That's probably why my work may not appeal to everyone. I don't do fitness just for fitness sake..for better or for worse, it's more than that to me.
WNK: The past few years you have concentrated on producing videos for instructors rather than for the wider retail market. Why did you make this decision? Do you have any plans for more intermediate-level videos like Fitness Formula?
KA: The reason we focused on instructors the last few years is because the consumer fitness video market really declined. Non-celebrity videos were pushed off the shelf as shelf space was cut down. We found, however, that instructor interest and demand is still there and I'm very active in that arena, internationally. We were also lucky that many non-instructors still wanted the advanced choreography and we were able to reach both groups at once.
We recently released another video for the retail market called "Angles, Lines, and Curves." It's very different from my other projects and focuses on flexibility training and body toning. I'm hoping to do another intermediate/advanced level Step video this fall or winter, also for the retail market.
WNK: Do you keep tabs on the rest of the industry, and what other top names in video are working on? How do current trends affect your future video plans?
KA: I don't necessarily keep tabs on the rest of the industry, but because I am so active in the fitness world I'm always aware of who's doing what. I try not to look at other people's projects because I don't want that to influence what I feel is working, and what I want to do. It's important to me to be innovative in my own right, and to avoid what appears "trendy". As a club owner and instructor who still teaches, I pay attention to what the public likes, dislikes, and mistrusts. I'll only do something if I truly believe in it.
WNK: Besides "Angles, Lines, and Curves," do you have any new videos in the works at the moment?
KA: For the Great Moves series we just finished shooting one of my favorite instructors, Marcus Irwin. Marcus is from Australia and currently living in London. I have enjoyed his work for the past 3 years so I'm thrilled that we were able to do this project with him this year. We have just released his Step and HiLo. I have a feeling the U.S. is going to love him, and his teaching style, as much as I do.
WNK: What is your favorite video that you have produced?
KA: It would be hard to choose my favorite video. I obviously enjoy doing the videos that involve a cast (unlike the Great Moves series). The whole rehearsal process, the shoot, everything is so much fun when there are other people to work with. I have developed some great friendships with club members through these videos. They've seen me at my worst (when I'm really stressed!). Many of them are still in my classes at the clubs and it's great fun to reminisce about those good times.
WNK: How do you choose the class participants for your videos?
KA: Sometimes we hold auditions, and other times they're just selected from class. It really depends on what the project is and how many people I need. Auditions are difficult because I want to use everyone..it's so hard to be put in that position. On the other hand it's the only way for me to see members that I normally wouldn't see. With 3 clubs and a full life, there are many people I unfortunately never meet.