By Katie Bowles
Elle Woods once famously said “Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands.” Hopefully none of our readers are considering going after their significant other today (after all, Valentine’s Day was just last week), but that doesn’t mean that we couldn’t all benefit from a good, endorphin-releasing workout.
Created in NoVA, KAZAXE (or KZX) is a dance fitness class akin to Zumba, but with a bit more sweat–this class will make you work. But with up-to-date songs and choreography and a club-like atmosphere, you’ll enjoy every minute of it. Check out this clip from a KAZAXE class:
I recently got the chance to interview KAZAXE founder Asuka Boutcher and learn a bit about the story behind KAZAXE and about the class itself.
NVM: Are you from Northern Virginia?
AB: I grew up in mainland Japan and Okinawa until I was 12. We moved to the states in 1995 and then ended up in Virginia in 1997, when I was 14.
Q: How did KAZAXE begin? What made you want to start your own dance exercise class?
A: I started as a Zumba instructor when I was 19, and I was a Zumba Master Trainer, training my region of Zumba instructors. I was also in the Zumba 2008 Fitness DVD’s with the creator Beto Perez, but soon after, I created KAZAXE because the class I was teaching did not follow Zumba format. I was morphing and transforming the class according to what my students wanted, so to have the freedom, I left Zumba and began to grow and nurture KAZAXE, which to this day is constantly evolving.
Q: What does “KAZAXE” mean? How did you decide on the name?
A: “Kaza” is a play on words of “casa”, which means “house”. Axe (ashay) means “positive vibrations”–I always loved the word and the greeting used in Brazil, “Muito Axe” which means you are basically sending positive vibrations to the other person. So KAZAXE is basically “House of Positive Vibrations”. But the real truth is that I just liked the letters after seeing an inspiring Cirque de Soleil show called “Kooza”, and it all came together for me when I was driving away, looking at the big sign. I realized the “meaning” years after. It all just came together on its own.
Q: How long has KAZAXE been in existence? How has it grown?
A: We officially started KAZAXE in September 2006; it’s just constantly been growing since. Our problem is that we still to this day do not have a big enough building to accommodate the demand. We always work with what we have, but I hope one day we will be able to do more with less limitations.
(Writer’s note: The fact that KAZAXE doesn’t have a big enough building speaks volumes about just how popular this class is–it’s currently housed in “The Underground”, a fairly massive warehouse-type space).
Q: What’s your favorite part of KAZAXE?
A: My favorite part of KAZAXE is the beautiful, diverse and loving community we have and that we are a team [and able] to do great community work. It’s just beautiful…and it’s my childhood dream coming true to have a place where people can come together for a positive reason, with the celebration of all the diversity and unique individuals.
Q: I heard that KAZAXE’s marketing is all word-of-mouth—is that correct?
A: Yep, thanks to our Gremlins (KAZAXE attendees) who have big mouths, we have only had to do marketing through them.
Q: Any advice for people who feel overwhelmed or intimidated by fitness classes?
A: My advice is to find your joy and follow it. Fitness and “diets” make us feel bad about who we are, in the state we are in. The only focus should be joy, and from there all the answers will come to you.
Asuka and the rest of the KAZAXE team teach classes multiple times each day at 6728 Industrial Road, Springfield. Drop-in rates are only $6 per class, and other monthly/session packages are available. Learn more here.