After working out, the women of Jazzercise brought Gloria Frazier up onto the stage at the community center to wish her a Happy Birthday. (Drew Penner/Press Banner)

On the morning of April 12, as natural light streamed through windows of the Scotts Valley Community Center, bodies flowed to the beat of “Birthday” by Katy Perry, as the scene was beamed out to around 20 people online.

The women were here to celebrate the 94th birthday of Gloria Frazier, a Scotts Valley resident who has become somewhat of a legend in the local Jazzercise community.

“I want to be like you when I’m 94,” the instructor proclaimed in front of the class, the day after the woman’s official birthday.

As Frazier raised barbell-filled hands and thrust her hips side to side, Melissa Hanson, 51, one of the class managers, commented that it was like she was glowing—and not because of the shiny unicorn tiara she was wearing, either.

“She shines in here,” Hanson said.

Scotts Valley resident Gloria Frazier channels the true Jazzercise spirit in her blue, pink and purple abstract windbreaker and unicorn tiara. (Drew Penner/Press Banner)

Carolyn Callander, 67, couldn’t have agreed more.

“She’s just always positive,” Callander said. “She’s always ‘up.’”

Jazzercise, which was developed in 1969, gained prominence in the 1980s for campy routines, headset microphones (which it pioneered) and neon thong aerobics outfits. It was once the second-fastest growing chain in the country behind Domino’s Pizza.

Lynda Waller, a 70-year-old from Felton who’s been Jazzercising since the 1970s, remembers the crazy styles of the ’80s quite well.

“The fashions have changed dramatically,” she said with a laugh. “I met a lot of friends through Jazzercise over the years.”

Gloria Frazier (left) brings her arms parallel with the ground at the Scotts Valley Community Center. (Drew Penner/Press Banner)

While a major forerunner, Jazzercise has fallen somewhat out of favor in the fitness world, what with the rise of trendy brands like SoulCycle, CrossFit and Zumba, and the proliferation of yoga culture.

However, here in the North County, Jazzercise has maintained a solid foothold, with popular social media groups and annual floats in local Fourth of July parades.

“We’ve been doing Jazzercise for like 30 years,” Callander said.

“We get to exercise together in community while listening to music,” Hanson added.

But the coronavirus pandemic was quite a trying time for the people who had come to rely on the dance-based health classes for their physical and mental wellbeing.

Frazier was the star of the show during the Friday morning class. She says she loves how she is surrounded by happy people at Jazzercise. (Drew Penner/Press Banner)

Even though Jazzercise classes moved into the online realm, this wasn’t a solution for everyone.

“A lot of older people didn’t want to Zoom,” said Callander, noting this was the case with Frazier. “She had a hard time with Covid.”

Moving your body to a computer screen just isn’t the same, Frazier told the Press Banner.

“I’m a people person,” she said. “I love people.”

While some of the attendees can trace their love of Jazzercise back almost to its origins, Frazier shared how she came to the discipline later in life.

She worked for Hewlett-Packard for a while, before moving to Alaska with her husband. It wasn’t until she took a job with Santa Cruz County in their social welfare office that she fell for Jazzercise.

“There’s people who run or bike; well, I Jazzercise,” she said. “You’re always happy you came.”

During an April 12 Jazzercise class in Scotts Valley, Frazier activates her left arm and right leg, alongside her fellow classmates. (Drew Penner/Press Banner)

Frazier said it’s just nice to be around so many upbeat people.

“I see happiness,” she said.

Ben Lomond resident Kathy Englert, 70, said she hopes to Jazzercise into her 90s, like Frazier.

“I gave up competitive tennis, and this has taken over,” she said. “I know I can age gracefully with this.”

Frazier loves Jazzercise so much she goes to classes pretty much daily.

“You feel good all day,” she said, commending the instructors. “They care about you.”

After the class, the women gathered around a table with puffed chips, oranges and banana-nut bread. Frazier blew out the candle on her cupcake.

“It’s the best birthday I’ve ever had,” she said.

Frazier prepares to blow out her birthday candle. (Drew Penner/Press Banner)

*An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the group meets at the Scotts Valley Senior Center.

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Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected].


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