Sunday, January 19

Cardio Striptease helps people to take it all off


Participants don't get completely naked, must be at least 18 to join class

  Crunch Gym Crunch Gym, located on Sunset Boulevard, along
with other gyms across the nation, has included aerobic workouts
such as Cardio Striptease.

By Beverly Braga
Daily Bruin Contributor

Hollywood is used to seeing the scantily clad strutting down its
streets.

From the movie screens to the streets and now to the “¦
gym? It’s not as far-fetched as it seems. At the Crunch Gym
on Sunset Boulevard, the health conscious shed pounds as they shed
clothes in a class called Cardio Striptease.

Every Wednesday, an average-sized dance studio becomes host to a
capacity crowd of 50 people who don’t mind sliding across the
floor or up and down poles. Sometimes feather boas are involved.
Other times it’s chairs. This is definitely not your average
aerobics class.

“Cardio Striptease is a combination of aerobics, dance
techniques and stripping,” said instructor Jeffrey Costa
during a telephone interview. “It’s a very body
conscious class. The stripping, of course, is what gets
everyone’s attention.”

Holding degrees in English and French from Boston University,
Costa is also well educated in the art of dance. A world-renowned
choreographer and fitness instructor with 14 years of experience,
he has traveled across the globe, teaching everything from stress
relaxation to aqua ballet. However, the inspiration for his Cardio
Striptease class had modest beginnings.

“I’m not gearing it towards strippers,” said
Costa. “But at the same point, some of my inspiration for the
class came from a frustration in seeing dancers who might look good
or people who look good, but don’t know how to move or look
comfortable in their skin. It’s really about getting in touch
with your body and falling in love with it.”

Although open to anyone at least 18 years old, about 80 percent
of the participants end up being female. Not that this is a problem
for the men who do decide to join a session.

“The guys party down,” said Costa. “A lot of
times I do match people up and it’s random. You have no idea
what the other person’s sexuality is. It breaks down a lot of
boundaries.”

There are also less noticeable participants on the other side of
the studio windowpane. The sensual stripteasers can easily look
back at the gawking weightlifters through the glass walls which are
usually drenched in sweat and steam.

“It’s come to the point where they don’t
pretend to lift weights anymore,” said Costa. “They
just stand there and stare. They should set up a bar and serve
drinks. They’d make a lot of money.”

He likes to joke about the voyeurs on occasion. After all, what
they do is exhibitionism, so eyes are welcomed. But Costa
isn’t as concerned with the happenings outside of the window
as he is with the inside.

Costa wants to help people be more at ease with who they are. To
accomplish that, they have to be at ease with who he is. This is
not a problem for one of his favorite students, Thelma Ostrow, the
self-proclaimed “senior citizen” of the group.

“I’m the oldest one there,” said Ostrow.
“But Jeff is really wonderful. He just has that
feeling.”

During the class’s inaugural month in June of last year,
Ostrow, a retired secretary, saw the workout listed in a membership
newsletter. Being one who loves to dance but is too shy to go to
nightclubs, she did what most adults her age probably
wouldn’t dream of doing: She gave Cardio Striptease a
try.

“I just thought it was real neat, something
different,” said Ostrow. “It makes me feel very
exhilarated, like I’m floating on air. In other classes, I
feel that maybe I’m not doing it right; I feel conspicuous
that I’m not keeping up with them. But this one is free
action so I go with it.”

Ostrow has since become the source of motivation to her peers.
To some, she is even an inspiration.

“She dances around,” said Costa. “Everybody
claps and loves her. And it’s such a good example to see an
18-year-old woman looking at (her) and saying, “˜Wow. I can
still be having fun in my 70s?’ It’s very interesting.
It’s showing (them) that it’s okay to express
themselves and have fun.”

Fun is one of Costa’s main objectives. For this particular
class, most of that fun is experienced in the tease of a good
strip. But how far do the once-a-week strippers really go?

“No one has ever gotten naked,” said Costa.
“Everybody is expecting a certain level of sexuality.
I’m a former go-go dancer and I always strip down to my
underwear and boots. But everyone’s got their own level and
are encouraged to go to whatever level they want to.”

Some may be disappointed with this news of no nudity. Still,
others are perfectly fine with the ways things already are.

“We get down to a sports bra or bustier,” said
Debbie Carey, 31, an entertainment industry make-up artist.
“We show our g-strings. We show skin, but we keep it all
tasteful.”

“The first person that does get completely naked will put
pressure on everyone else,” Carey added. “They would be
setting the standard.”

Other Crunch Gyms, including those in Miami and Chicago, have
also started Cardio Striptease sessions following the success of
the original in L.A. New York is the most recent of the major
cities to launch one.

With the spreading popularity of the session, Costa believes
this workout will replace Tae-Bo. He already has a video in
production and the mass media’s attention, paving the way to
claim the cardio workout crown.

“The last trend in fitness was combat,” said Costa.
“I think people are tired of all this fighting and violence.
People don’t want to punch each other anymore. We want to
spend our time at home and to feeling good.”

Called “God’s gift to strip teasing” by a
student, Costa’s enthusiasm and free-spirit entice the pupils
to come back for more. As for those with inhibitions about trying
the class, he has only one thing to say.

“Don’t be afraid,” said Costa. “If
there’s one thing I promise, it’s having a good
time.”

FITNESS: Cardio Striptease takes place every
Wednesday night at 7 p.m. For Crunch members the class is free.
Non-members can purchase a $23 day pass. Crunch Gym ““ Los
Angeles is located at 8000 Sunset Blvd. For more info, call (323)
654-4550 or visit www.crunch.com or
www.jeffreycosta.com.

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