Diego, where my husband, Jack, and I had
moved. I developed nodules on my vocal cords
from yelling instructions over the music, and
my doctor warned if I didn’t slow down, I’d
lose my voice entirely.
So I recruited my best students and taught
them my methods. They took over some of
my classes, and I collected a percentage of
Today, when you say “Jazzercise,” people say, “Oh, are you still here? Are you still doing what you did in the ’80s?” Yes to the first question. No to the second.
Missett at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., leading
a class at the Jazz Dance World Congress in 1996.
part in the 1984
relay, as it passes
their sales for supplying choreography and
San Diego is a military town. Many of my
students were military wives, or were themselves in the military. They moved around a lot
and took what by then I called Jazzercise with
them. And their students became teachers,
spreading the program organically. All underwent Jazzercise training and certification.
Every 10 weeks, I sent them videotapes of new
choreography, created by me and produced by
In the late 1970s, I appeared on Dinah Shore’s
show Dinah!, wearing a leotard on which a
friend had silkscreened “Jazzercise.” The
response was so huge we launched Jazzertogs
(later Jazzercise Apparel), which we sold
through our instructors—and which remains
a large part of our business.
By 1981, I had about 1,000 instructors around
the country working as independent contractors. My accountants and lawyers told me the
arrangement wasn’t, strictly speaking, legal.
They could be either employees or franchisees.
The instructors had always been free
to make what they wanted of Jazzercize. Some
taught a few classes a week as a hobby. For
others, it was a full-fledged business. Either
way, they felt ownership. So I chose franchises,
even though that model wasn’t big at the time.
In 1984, the Olympics came to Los Angeles.
We approached the organizers o;ering to
provide, for free, 300 dancers for the opening
ceremony. They agreed—it was a phenomenal
experience. After that, Jazzercise was invited
to perform at NFL halftimes, NBA halftimes,
and the 100th anniversary of the Statue of
I landed a weekly slot demonstrating moves
on PM/Evening Magazine, a forerunner of
Entertainment Tonight. Our visibility skyrocketed. By the mid-1980s, the two biggest franchises were Jazzercise and Domino’s Pizza.
But we were also starting to get competition.
Jane Fonda and Richard Simmons had been
around for some time. (We actually beat out
Jane—ours was the first exercise video to go