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Want a good laugh? Watch me taking a U-Jam class
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I’m losing it.

There is no other explanation for a man closing in on 60 years whose idea of perfect music is anything sang by Frank Sinatra would be taking a U-Jam class.

For those unfamiliar with U-Jam, it is essentially hip hop dance moves on steroids.

The word “dance” should be the first clue for anyone who knows me that I’m clearly out of my element. To say I’m uncoordinated would qualify as a massive understatement. I’d be happy if I had two left feet.

What got me to start taking U-Jam classes a month ago wasn’t a burning desire to make other people laugh although I’m sure I’ve accomplished that. I wanted to take two group exercise classes back-to-back on Tuesdays as I am doing on Friday. Having a wish like that should tell you I’ve crashed my bicycle one too many times.

The unfortunate instructor I picked is Margy Nelson at the Manteca InShape.

She jumps and has high energy. No problem given my reputation as a crazy man for some of the modified moves I do in classes. Margy can also dance, something that I was never destined to do.

Complicating matters is the little detail that the world is a blur when I don’t wear my glasses and that I am a left-handed person forced by teachers back in the Dark Ages of the early 1960s to be right handed.

This makes it a challenge when I’m trying to copy somebody else’s fast-paced moves for my brain to get my body and various limbs to go in the right direction.

Fortunately the lights are down low in U-Jam compared to other group exercise classes. That means the people behind me won’t be doubled over in laughter all the time trying to figure out what I’m doing.

And what am I doing besides looking like a flopping fish out of water?

If you ask Margy she’ll tell you I’m doing U-Jam. 

Did I tell you that Margy is polite and an extremely down-to-earth instructor that makes you feel comfortable and apparently can stifle laughter for a full hour?

After the first class a month ago she told me that I was getting some of the moves. That’s only because two routines resembled movements from 90-minute Jazzercise classes I took in the late 1980s. It proves two points. First, there are only so many ways you can flail your body which means even 28 years or so some “new” movement is bound to resurface in trendy exercise programs. Second, when it comes to coordination and dancing I am definitely not like wine as I am not getting better with time.

And as Angel McKinney — another InShape instructor who once was a paid production-style dancer in her youth can tell you — I’m on beat perhaps once every five years for about two minutes. She should know given I spent about 12 years plus years torturing her in 6 a.m. classes until I decided only getting three hours of sleep before jogging to and from an exercise class made be certifiable.

Angel actually named a move after me —”The Dennis.” It’s a double grapevine with a turn in the middle that takes me from one side of the room to the other and back. She always takes delight in warning new students to not follow what I’m doing. If you doubt this, ask Joann Tilton. I’m pretty sure after taking her aerobics classes for a number of months in 2004 is why she stopped leading Manteca Recreation classes that she had been teaching since 1982.  Tilton — another instructor who has coordination — can verify that I can’t dance to save my life.

I spend a lot of time laughing at myself trying to do the U-Jam moves. If you believe the experts, the laughter burns off a couple of more calories as well. But there are some moves I won’t even try to do just as I wouldn’t in Jazzercise, Angel’s classes and others. For want of a better way to describe it, the moves are Elvis-style hip thrusting motions that I typically respond to by shaking my head, looking away and going in a flash into a Rolling Stones’ inspired jumping jack frenzy. (Hey, I do listen to other music besides Sinatra tunes.)

Margy — like all good instructors — encourages people to keep moving and make the movements their own. She also says “don’t worry, you’ll get it.”

That I seriously doubt. I’ll get the moves down pat about the time Hilary Clinton hires Russ Limbaugh as her campaign manager.

Meanwhile, I’m going to keep jamming to hip hop music.

The world, after all, needs a good laugh.


This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at or 209.249.3519.