Julie Steffen may be a master instructor and the co-founder of WERQ Dance Fitness, but she spent most of her adult life as a CPA. “I was very active in my childhood” Steffen says, “but as an adult working full time, I was struggling to find the time to work out and also lacking any kind of direction.” It wasn’t long after friends introduced her to group fitness classes that Steffen teamed with WERQ co-founded Haley Stone to create the newest craze in group fitness. Not only is WERQ a hit at gyms, but Steffen and Stone have brought the pop, rock,and hip hop-based class to clubs, making it an afterWERQ destination as well. Steffen spoke with Our Town about fitness, dance tips and afterWERQ’s upcoming event at The Double Door.
Our Town First let’s talk briefly about Werq. How did you come up with the idea for the fitness classes?
Julie Steffen My business partner Haley Stone first mentioned developing the WERQ format in 2010. We were in her car and she looked at me and said, "Julie, we are going to start the next big trend in dance fitness. We're going to call it WERQ." I was a full-time CPA, teaching fitness classes part-time and I must have looked at her like she was insane. We're going to do what? Once she explained that the term WERQ was used in the hip-hop dance world to express confidence, dominance, and leaving your heart on the dance floor, I was sold. Haley and I began to hash out the format and the details behind the choreography design, and WERQ was born.
OT As a teacher, what’s your main concern when leading a class?
JS My students! Can they achieve? Are they able to follow my cuing? Are their heart rates high and are they crushing calories and building strength and cardiovascular endurance? My goal as an instructor is to inspire people to work harder than they think they can work on their own. Fitness is a lifestyle commitment, not a quick fix and creating achievable workouts that are fun helps participants return week after week.
OT It seems like more and more fitness and socializing are being combined. Why do you think that is?
JS We all struggle to fit what we need to do into 24 hours. Events such as afterWERQ blend all the fitness of a gym workout with the social experience of going out with your friends.
OT What do you think draws participants to the afterWERQ events?
JS The energy is always so infectious at afterWERQ – everyone is talking about their favorite song or favorite dance move and it's so wonderful to hear everyone so excited about working out. It is a fitness experience complete with a stage, concert lighting, dance floor and bumping stereo system. Also many participants enjoy getting out of the gym setting. There are no mirrors at afterWERQ so if you're intimidated by the wall full of mirrors in an aerobics studio, this gives you the option of getting lost in the dark, dancing like no one is watching. Also while I loved going out dancing in my early 20s, I'm past the time in my life where I enjoy the club scene. afterWERQ allows participants to still enjoy the nightclub setting without the high heels, makeup and random guy dancing behind you.