When did you join Jacki’s?

When did you first experience a Jacki’s Aerobic Dancing class?

Do you remember the name of your first session? Click here to see a list of all of them.

Who was your first instructor?

Why have you stayed with Jacki’s program?

Tell us your story.

I’ll go first to get the ball rolling …

In 1981 I read an article in the Sunday Telegraph about Jacki Sorensen and her
Aerobic Dancing program which had recently started up in Sydney.

I had been a dance student for ten years (ballet, jazz and tap) through my childhood
and adolescence, and although I’d attended traditional “aerobics” classes for fitness,
I had really missed the “dance” in my life.

I attended a class on the top floor of the old RSL building in George Street in the city.
The instructor was Wendi Eston (ex Australian ballet), and there were only six of us in
the class.  I loved it and was thrilled to discover that there was a class running near where I lived at Drummoyne.

I joined up there where Holly Muggleston was the instructor and never
missed a class.  Subsequently Holly suggested that I might want to consider instructing.
I did and my first class was in Balmain in September 1983 with four students!
That session was called Harmony. 

Diana Royds


20 thoughts on “When did you join Jacki’s?”

  1. I’m one of the original Hallelujah starters – actually, pre-Hallelujah. When my youngest kiddie started school in February 1981 I enrolled in a new twice-weekly class called aerobic dancing at the Epping branch of the Northern Sydney Health Service (NSH). The program had been running in some other NSH locations since 1978, brought to Australia by former US Jacki Sorensen instructor Judy Recher, who lived on Scotland Island. Jacki had given Judy permission to use previously published dances of Jacki’s and Judy supplemented these with her own creations, following the same class format we know today.

    My instructor at the Chester Street Uniting Church hall in Epping was Cheryl Dart, and I loved the classes from the first day. Halfway through the 12-week session (there were only three school terms then) Cheryl announced the program would change next session. Jacki’s American program was coming to Sydney as private enterprise. Ads had been placed in newspapers for prospective instructors and present NSH instructors would have to audition along with new recruits. Instructors were coming from the US to select and train the successful candidates.

    Each class, Cheryl would tell us how professional the new program was and how she feared she would not pass the audition. In fact, all the NHS instructors passed, and Cheryl soon became one of the first Australian trainers.

    Second term 1981 dawned with a new venue, the Epping School of Arts; a new instructor, Denise Ball, who taught alternate days with Cheryl; and lots of new classmates. We were offered caramel-coloured T-shirts with the Hallelujah logo printed in gold, but I think only the instructors wore them – it took a couple of sessions for the T-shirts to catch on. I loved the classes more than ever. I was gob-smacked that Cheryl and Denise had memorised all those dances for me, and that they looked at my face when asking my heart rate. This was no joke; they cared about my well-being.

    After two years I trained as an instructor and set up children’s classes in Epping. These ran for three years until my last students went off to high school. I continued dancing as a student during this time and in 1987 took over the two Carlingford classes when the instructor (Hillary Peck) left. During the next six years I established four more classes in the Ryde area and returned to being a student in 1994. I was grateful that other instructors (Nanette Marsdon and Irene Humphries) took over all six of my classes and none had to close.

    Jacki’s continues to be the positive physical and mental force in my life it has been for 30 years. I presently attend four classes a week in East Ryde and North Willoughby, and intend to dance till I drop!

    I’d love to know if there are other pre-Hallelujah dancers still with us. I believe that in addition to Cheryl Dart and Judy Recher, other NHS instructors were Sonia Holland, Mary Burgess and Linda Francis. Along with Cheryl’s Epping class, their classes at St Ives, Forestville and the Northern Beaches became Jacki’s classes starting with Hallelujah. Were you in any of them?

    1. Hi Beatrice,
      Remember me? ( Helen Karsten). Lovely to read your comments. Just stumbled upon this site today and the memories came flooding back to the days when we collaborated to promote our classes in our areas. Yes, thanks to Jacki aerobic stays with you forever. Still do several aerobic classes a week and can’t imagine ever stopping.
      Cheers and happy dancing

  2. I joined Jacki’s in 1986.

    My chiropractor insisted that I start exercising so that I could improve my health -ugh not my idea of fun! Going to the gym was uninspiring – repetitive, unfriendly, boring, too many sweet young things in tight fitting gym gear who looked really good compared to me. Swimming was OK but it was a bit of a struggle in winter; the smell of chlorine just wasn’t a winner; and counting laps was seriously tedious. Walking wasn’t much of a challenge either.

    I saw a Jacki’s flyer in the letter box one day and thought dance aerobics sounded good. I turned up to my first class in the hall of the old Drummoyne Boys High School. I just paid for one session and figured I’d think about it for a week or two before deciding whether to come regularly. Well, by the end of the class I’d paid up for a whole term. It was so good!

    I’ve been attending classes regularly ever since. That’s 25 years. Goodness!
    Just like Beatrice I plan to keep going until I drop.

  3. I started dancing at St Ives in 1984 and have not missed a term since. I came with a friend and have had numerous instructors — all have been great but none better than Janet Nixon our mentor for 16 years. In our group we’ve helped each other through all of life’s ups and downs and the fitness levels we’ve achieved are amazing. I’m now 69 and have never felt better. The classes are always challenging and fun.

    My first instructor was Betsy Lewin, a bubbly American.

    1. I am now 73 & still dancing with Janet Nixon at St Ives twice a week.
      Jacki’s is a wonderful program & I am sure my flexibility, balance & overall fitness is due to my participation twice a week since 1984.
      Thank you Jacki’s & especially Janet Nixon .

  4. I first discovered Jacki’s in February 2005. I’d seen an ad in the Village Voice and put it aside. My first class was a week after my mother’s funeral and I really needed something to lift my spirits. I remember coming home after my first class with Moni at Balmain PCYC. My husband asked me how it went and I said, “I’m sure I’ll enjoy it once I know what I’m doing”. Well, it took at least two years for me to sort out my left and right feet, but now Jacki’s is an integral part of my life. I also love the fact that I am far more exposed to contemporary music than I would have been! Who’d have thought that I’d love Lady Gaga, Kei$ha and Katy Perry!!!

  5. I joined Jacki’s at St Ives mid 1984. I saw an article in the Sun newspaper about Jacki’s and it sounded perfect. It proved to be a good choice. My first instructor was Betsy Lewin, a cheerful lady from California, USA and she won me over. I think my first session was ‘The Best of Times’. Since Betsy some of our regular instructors have been Sonja, Heather, Sandy, Betty, Sylvia and Nanette, all conducting good classes. For the past 15 years, we have been extremely fortunate to have Janet Nixon as our instructor. Janet is loved by us all, she is so cheerful and giving, and we couldn’t get a better instructor.
    A bonus is the many friends I have made at Jacki’s. We have shared many lifetime experiences and family events over the years.

  6. I first joined Jacki’s in 2005. I was looking for a fitness program that didn’t involve slogging it out in a gym! I found an ad in the Village Voice and convinced my mum we should check it out. We attended our first class at Leichhardt with Moni and have been hooked ever since! Moving out of the Inner West to the North Shore and then to the Hills District it was good to know I could still find a class no matter where I was. Dancing is a huge outlet for me and going to class is always a highlight after a busy working week. I’ve been lucky enough to make some wonderful friendships over the years and look forward to many more years of dancing!

  7. I am one of the ‘original’ students of Jacki Sorenson’s Aerobic Dancing from last century!!
    Linda Francis was with the Dept. Health Healthy Lifestyle programme and informed us about this aerobic dancing class which was to commence the following term in Avalon, well me and my two left feet decided to give it a go and what fun it has been and what lovely people and friends I’ve made along the way. Classes at Avalon, Mona Vale, Narrabeen, Balgowlah, Forestville and St. Ives with Linda, Betty, Sandy, Nanette, Di and Janet.
    The fact I have been ‘dancing’ all this time and have sustained no injuries from dancing proves what a great programme Jacki has developed and more importantly, great instructors. Especially Janet Nixon.
    Sure I have lots more grey hairs and lines than I did at 36 but they truly are laughter lines, as for the two left feet, well let’s just say I’m a slow learner but not prepared to give up yet.
    Jean Woodley is also a student at St. Ives and commenced with Linda Francis 30 years ago and agrees it has been a great journey – here’s to the next 30 years.

    1. Diane and Jean–it’s great to find fellow “originals”! Hope we hear from some more.

  8. I heard about Jacki’s from a friend whose husband was an US Army Officer at Fort Hood in Texas, where I think Jacki Sorensen started teaching aerobic dancing. I went to my first class at Burwood at the beginning of 1982. Coralie was the instructor. I was feeling very ‘mumsy’ after the birth of my third child who was about 18 months old and still ‘on the breast’. I had always played sport and had studied ballet and tap during my school years but at this time I was very unfit. From the first lesson (with my son sleeping in his stroller) I was rapt, even though I was out of breath and it was difficult to concentrate for a whole hour on only one thing. We wore little satiny white shorts and a cropped tee-shirt with the dance logo.

    I am in my sixties now, dancing through the decades with Jacki’s, part of my life, lately at Abbotsford with Diana who interprets the dance style perfectly. And that is why I’ve stayed. To watch and to listen and to dance. Sometimes I hear a song from an old Jacki routine and I can’t help myself. I have embarrassed my children by demonstrating ‘jump-turns’ and a couple of ‘waterfalls’ in the aisle of a supermarket if a familiar tune was playing. Great fun!

    I am living at Thirroul at the moment and Mondays at 6pm bring a wistful sigh. But I’ll be back. Although it is never too late to change horses, Jacki’s Aerobic dancing is the winner.

  9. I first started with Jacki in Term 3 in 1991 at Top Ryde. The title of the session was “Escapade” and I still wear the t-shirt from that session.

    I had over previous years done a Health Department programme called Get Fit, Stay Fit at Northbridge. I enjoyed these classes greatly and when I moved to East Ryde I looked in the local paper for something similar and came up with Jacki. The contact was one Beatrice Player. So I joined, Beatrice was my first instructor, I am still doing the classes and Beatrice and I are great friends. At the moment I am only doing Ryde East Saturday classes occasionally but my friends from this group are fabulous and our coffee group has made many changes to peoples’ lives.

    After retirement, I also started classes at St Ives with Janet, and both Janet and the St Ives group are very important to me.

    Now 75, I had a double mastectomy operation in July and next day was able to lift my arms up in the air (thanks to Jacki). I tried a couple of classes after about four weeks and next term am planning to continue with three classes a week. I know that a lot of the credit for my fast recuperation is due to twenty years of regular dance aerobic exercise with Jacki. So thank you.

  10. Diana has been my instructor from the very beginning of my “life long” dancing since 1984/85. My nine year old son, whom I dragged to classes with me from a young age, summed it up perfectly way back in 1990 with a poem he wrote and consequently published in Jacki’s “News Letter” of the time.

    “Yackity Yack Aerobics”

    Aerobics is fun because you run and dance around
    And once it’s over you’ll want to hit the ground
    It’s only for an hour
    And once it’s over you’ll have heaps more power
    You lift up weights and stuff like that
    And when you talk about it, you’ll say “yackity yack yack”
    When you tell about it you’ll go silly
    By the way this poem is written by Jay Tilley

    To me Jacki’s aerobics has been a life-style, loving the dancing, exercises, the many friends and acquaintances that have been made over the last 25 years and hopefully the next 25 years, which will bring me around the ninety odd years of age, WOW.

  11. I attended my first session of Jacki’s Aerobic Dancing at Coogee in first term 1984. My son was 6 months old and I needed to get back into shape as I was returning to work. I was looking for something fun that would keep me interested. I certainly found it! I remember the first class I just couldn’t stop laughing, as I had absolutely NO idea what was going on. The teacher’s name was Uli (?) – I think she was Russian – and I couldn’t understand anything she said. I stuck with it though, and by the next term, I started to get some of the steps. I started back at work in the city, and also attended classes upstairs in the old Cricketer’s Club in Barrack St (with Diana as instructor I believe!)

    A few years later I moved to the southern suburbs, and continued classes with Coralie at Hurstville, Kogarah and Carss Park, and also with Joanne at Roselands & Kogarah. When I moved into the city ten years ago, there were no classes close by, so I lapsed for a couple of years. I attended other gyms etc, but always became bored with the workouts after a period of time. I decided to look up Jacki’s classes again, and have since been attending with Trish, Diane & Moni on the North Shore, Arlene when she taught at Darlinghurst, and Moni at Balmain. My work schedule makes it challenging to attend 2 classes per week, but it’s great that I can “make up” classes if I miss my usual time.

  12. I started Jacki’s aerobic dance in the summer session called “Sailing” taught by Diana Royds. I think it was at the Cricket Club in Martin Place. I used to travel after work to Drummoyne, Rodd Point, Mosman, Hurstville and Rose Bay and was at one stage doing it four times a week. Then I took up running but still continued. The timing to get to classes became too difficult in around 1994 and anyway I had taken up ballroom dancing, where I used to often see Anne Harris. Then I broke my femur and had to have a hip replacement so I cannot jump anymore. I now am a member of Fitness First, do two pump classes and four spin classes and work out in the gym for two hours three times a week. I was watching the changed format for a class there called Body Attack and realised it was an aerobics class I did back in 1983 at a gym called Solar Plexus. Knowing that it would make me feel bored I accidentally came across an add for Jacki Sorensens Aerobic Dance and immediately fell in love with it. You put as much verve in it as you wanted and were encouraged to sing along too. Whitney Houston’s death reminded me again as I am sure “One Moment in Time” was one of the cool down dances in a session which may have been called “Free to Be”. In my 78th year I still have fond memories of Jacki’s Aerobic Dance and even bought a CD with the Love Theme by Elmo’s Fire which was one of the most beautiful instrumentals which appeared in one of the sessions. When I was running in the early morning before work, I used to always stand in front of my house and do the cool down and my cat would stand beside me.

    Love to you all – Diana Neubacher

  13. My first encounter with Jacki’s Aerobic Dancing was in 1982 at Hurstville. It was SO long ago so the name of the instructor eludes me (I think it was Heather?) Camelot was the name of the session. I soon became so “hooked” that I became an instructor myself and then also my sister did too. I taught in Yagoona and Bankstown and I absolutely loved it! I had a full time job as a Primary School teacher during the day and then taught classes at night.

    When I wasn’t teaching at night I would have the music pumping practising the new dances in my bedroom. I was lucky enough to be a part of Jacki’s visit to Sydney and participated in “The Dance For Heart” to raise money for the National Heart Foundation. It was an experience that I have never forgotten. I continued teaching for around 3 years until after my marriage we moved to Queensland and I started my family. I have never in my life experienced an exercise program where I became so passionate and excited as it wasn’t hard work but it certainly was an AMAZING workout!

  14. I joined Aerobic Dancing when it was in the RSL club in George Street in Sydney in 1981. I worked just up from there so it was easy for me to get to classes. The first ever session for me was Camelot and Wendi Easton was my instructor. Well I was hooked and ended up doing four classes a week. My instructors included Sandy Rodgers nee Korbartis, Nanette Marsdan and the lovely Beatrice Player. I was so inspired by Wendi I became an instructor. Still have all of my session shirts. Taught in Bankstown and Fairfield, Chatswood back in the 80’s I loved it. I came back briefly to dance with Beatrice but after having my second child prevented me from returning. I loved every minute of dancing and miss it terribly. Wish there was a class out here in the western suburbs, any chance of getting one out here that’s closer than Baulkham Hills. Would love it if Diana could look into it and get one started.

  15. Whilst I can’t recall the first session I danced with Jacki’s, being either late 1981 or early ‘82, I do recall that it was with the fabulous Nanette Costin at Bondi Beach Pavilion.

    I was immediately hooked from my first class. I loved the music and the choreography. It was far removed from the aerobic classes that were around at the time and I think it fed the frustrated dancer in me. Soon after joining and dancing a few sessions I became an instructor. This felt like a natural progression, and I joined the early throng of instructors.

    It was Flash Dance and Footloose era, high cut leotards, coloured tights, leg warmers and head bands. Our instructor uniform was white shorts, session t-shirts and very white Reeboks. It was a good look! My first session instructing was ‘Hearts’ in 1983. I taught for around 2 years, beginning at Marrickville Bowling Club with a small group, later taking over the Hurstville classes. It was not uncommon to teach back to back classes i.e. one class followed immediately by another.

    Our Instructor training sessions were held at the NSWRSL Club in George Street, and we were weighed in before each session … very pleased that no longer happens! I danced in demos at Martin Place during my lunch hour when I worked in the city, and was part of the group that danced with Jacki Sorensen on her visit to Sydney for the Dance for Heart event held at Sydney Town Hall. That event in particular was a lot of fun. Being young however and circumstances changing, I left Jacki’s for what I imagined would be a brief period that somehow eventuated into over 20 years.

    I lived out of Sydney for some of the time, raised my two girls for some of the time, and I’m not sure what else, but the years rolled by until NYE 2005 I found myself driving through Leichhardt, and noticed a Jacki’s banner on the Leichhardt Public School fence and immediately realised what was missing from my life and what I would be doing in the New Year. New Years Eve resolution 2005 – tick!

    I enrolled into Moni’s Leichhardt class, session 1 2006, ‘Magic Moments’ hoping I would be able to bridge my then over 20 year gap. I was thrilled to be back in class after so many years, with such an inspiring instructor, and was thrilled also to recognise some of the steps: get it all together, swing step, thigh rock. I left my first Leichhardt class 2006 completely exhausted but on such a high! Over a shorter period of time than I expected I lost some kgs and felt a level of fitness I had forgotten existed. I am still a student of Moni’s, however I am also fortunate to be currently doing a spot of instructing, covering some classes at Five Dock and Abbotsford as Diana takes some well earned r ‘n’ r. Whilst I’m thrilled that I am able to instruct again after 30 years, I enjoy being able to participate in class at any level. Jacki’s is back in my life, and I intend to dance into the next decade and beyond.

  16. I joined Jacki’s in January 2010 on the recommendation of a friend.

    I didn’t take up any form of fitness pursuit until 2005 when I joined a gym in London and found the classes such as body pump, dancing, aerobics and body combat quite addictive!

    We moved back to Sydney in 2007 and living in Drummoyne initially I soon discovered the Bay Run, (it wasn’t around when we lived here in the 80’s), so that took care of running and walking, but I really missed my classes so went along to my first class in Abbotsford after having spoken to the delightfully friendly Diana on the phone to meet my friend who wasn’t able to make it so I had to be brave.

    The first term, oh who am I kidding, terms, were tricky as, hard as I tried, there always seemed to be moves I couldn’t master and I am my own harshest critic, (I’ll never forget the times of turning one way and finding the rest of the class facing me!), this despite Diana often asking me to stay back to see her after class so she could go over a certain step with me! She correctly sensed I wanted to ‘get it’ and suggested 2 classes a week would help,and she was right, it did.

    This is now my fourth year at Jacki’s and I love it, like many of the lovely students I’ve made friends with, I’m a regular, only holiday or sickness would keep me away, and I even seem to have my ‘spot’ in the hall, much like the back row girls.

    Amazingly, for someone who suffers from an affliction called zero travel time ie leaving for somewhere at the time I’m supposed to be there, I am always one of the first, if not the first to arrive for class!

  17. Well I can’t even remember when I started but I think I must have been about 21 and I’m 51 now! I started out down the bottom of George Street in the old RSL club – Heather used to teach and a whole lot of absolutely fabulous instructors – we were the little white shorts and Reeboks and had a great time – classes were absolutely full to the brim and there were classes in all suburbs and around Australia – and how great is it that dance is coming back in as a preferred form of exercise now! I loved it and used to attend 4 classes a week at least – I used to also go to the Cricketer’s Club in town which was a great venue. I then moved over and did classes at Artarmon with Stephanie who talked myself, Amanda and Debbie to become instructors – which we did and all loved it – I taught till I was 8 months pregnant with my first child. Have been back a few times over the years but restarted about two years ago and still love it as much as ever – I wish we had more classes and more instructors – it’s the best program ever and really lifts the endorphins! Great to see so many longstanding students posting their comments 🙂

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