Strip aerobics is hot in Los Angeles, but will it play in Fort Worth?

Thursday, September 6th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Lots of exercisers take off a T-shirt when they get hot, but these aerobic dancers might not stop there.

At the Crunch health club chain, the latest dance sensation is strip aerobics. Its developer bills Cardio Strip Tease as adult fun for everyone.

``People want to know how to strip,'' said choreographer Jeff Costas. And it's not just to develop a skill to impress their partners. ``When someone takes that big old T-shirt off their body, and they can see their body and see what they are doing at that moment, the workout is so effective.''

Crunch, an international health club chain based in New York, markets itself as the industry rule breaker, the club for exercisers who like to experiment. And Costas said Crunch had been toying with the idea of a strip class for a couple of years.

``I used to choreograph a male revue at the Roxy in Boston in 1996,'' Costas said. ``Did that teach me how to strip? No, I was teaching them how to dance and move and block on the stage. They were the strippers, and I was the choreographer.''

However, Costas built on his experience when he agreed to create a program for a Crunch club in Los Angeles _ located, as Costas pointed out, on Sunset Strip. Cardio Strip began there in June, 45 minutes on Wednesday evenings.

Cardio Strip is truly aerobics, Costas said. It's medium intensity, and it is low-to-no-impact because the feet don't have to leave the floor. Instead of jumping, participants wriggle.

``I get people to move in a figure-eight with their hips,'' Costas said. ``There's a lot of body rolling, starting with your chest, rolling down through the abdomen and through your buttocks.''

There's also a lot of touching yourself, and the session finishes in lap dancing, Costas said.

Participants naturally are encouraged to shed clothing; Costas has them tell each other, ``You look hot.'' After a while, they begin to think, ``Wait a minute. I do look hot,'' he said.

But nobody has to shed more than he or she wants. ``It's not about getting naked,'' Costas said.

Some people may flash their butts, and one woman wears pasties and has been known to pull her bra down, but others might just pull up a T-shirt and then pull it back down, or even do the whole class entirely clothed, he said.

Despite its flashiness, Cardio Strip is not just for those with something to flash, Costas said. ``Your body is a work in progress. This is celebrating you at the moment,'' he said.

The class spans all ages (18 and over) and body types _ from the '``Baywatch' babe'' with the flawless body to the 70-year-old woman who seems to like the program because the steps are easy to follow, he said.

Despite that age- and body-type range, experts doubt Cardio Strip will expand beyond its New York and Los Angeles foothold to become the next national aerobics craze.

``It's typical Crunch _ they get people's attention,'' said William C. Howland, director of research for the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, a trade group. But Crunch doesn't feature Cardio Strip in its Atlanta-area facility, ``and I think that tells you something,'' he said.

``How funny. And they strip to music?'' said Karla Overturf, chair of the group fitness committee at IDEA, The Health and Fitness Association, a fitness professionals' group. Overturf, who works out of the wellness division of Osteopathic Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas, doesn't think Fort Worth is ready to strip.

``We do have a program that's very dance-oriented and ... nah, it doesn't have anything to do with stripping,'' she said.

Even Santa Monica, Calif., a neighbor of Los Angeles, may not be ready for Cardio Strip, said Petra Kolber, winner of the 2001 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year award.

It's not that Kolber is against strip. ``My thing is, if it's not offending anyone, fitness should be fun and, if it motivates anyone to work out, whatever floats your boat,'' she said.

However, although Santa Monicans are fairly body-conscious, ``there are some things I have yet to see bared in a gym, and there's probably a reason for it,'' Kolber said.