BeMoved, a dance-fitness program designed for people of all ages and abilities, is now in the North Shore—thanks to Joanie Bayhack. “It’s a full-body workout, with easy-to-follow choreography, and makes you feel beautiful,” she says.
“BeMoved was created by the revered Chicago dancer/choreographer Sherry Zunker, who developed a dance program that builds core strength, improves balance, and increases flexibility,” Bayhack explains. “Each class begins with a gentle warm-up followed by a cardio-charged genre, and concludes with a gentle cool down—all to great music. With 19 unique dance genres—from back-up singer moves and disco to Bollywood and country—BeMoved inspires people to embrace dance as a lifelong path to health, joy, and fulfillment.”
After certifying as an instructor, Bayhack began teaching at the Wilmette Park District-Mallinckrodt and recently auditioned for the Lake Forest Health and Fitness Center. “They embraced the program with open arms and my class is growing every week,” she says with excitement. “The facility is exceptional and the studio space is amazing. My dream is to expand BeMoved to Highland Park and beyond—not only because it’s a safe, healthy exercise experience, but it creates a beautiful sense of connection and community.”
You can take Bayhacks’ BeMoved class on Mondays at 11:30 a.m. at the Lake Forest Health and Fitness Center.
“Although the class is very choreographed, it’s a judgement-free zone,” she emphasizes. “I say to my class, ‘Dance out loud! Dance like no one’s watching (because they’re not)—and just keep moving.”
Bayhack has always been passionate about dance. “I’ve been dancing since the sixth grade,” she shares. “I was never a proficient ballerina—the combinations were too complexed. I could never do the splits and I copied whoever was in front of me, regardless of how bad they were. My Ruth Page instructor would say, ‘Joanie, the swans went that way…’ But I never gave up, even through my three pregnancies. As we get older, we need to learn how to respect the changes in our bodies. BeMoved is designed to be safe, yet challenging. It nourishes the mind, body, and soul.”
After a 38-year career in media and raising three daughters, Bayhack asked herself: “What do I love? What would I really like to accomplish in this chapter of my life? This is my turn.”
“I discovered BeMoved at Chicago’s Ruth Page School of Dance, where I had studied ballet for three decades,” Bayhack recalls. “I loved the music, I could follow the combinations, and I really connected with my fellow dancers. At a workshop, I shyly approached the founder Sherry Zunker and asked if she thought I could teach BeMoved. She responded with an agonizing pause: ‘I’ll be honest, teaching BeMoved is really hard. But if you’re committed and really love it, you can do it.’ I left feeling exhilarated, excited, and terrified!”
Bayhack also volunteers for the Braille Institute, teaching the blind dance-fitness. She teaches it virtually from her Highland Park apartment. “I’m amazed by the courage of my blind dancers,” she says. “Together we learn to explain movements in pictures. I often describe a porte bras as a rainbow. Recently, one of my dancers, who was blind at birth, asked, ‘Joanie, what does a rainbow look like?’ I was silenced with emotion. She added, ‘I’m an opera singer and my teacher told me that high notes are hot pink…is pink in a rainbow?’”
Bayhack relishes the unique connections she has with her dancers—whether it’s with Deko, who comes to class in a chiffon evening gown and rhinestone heels, or Larry, 82, who comes dressed in the outfit he wore when he was a salesman at an upscale men’s store in New York City. “The biggest challenge is my dancers love to talk,” she notes. “Now I add a bumper at the beginning and end of each class so we can catch up on everyone’s lives.”
“My dream is to engage more people and build awareness of this heart and soul-nurturing experience,” adds Bayhack. “I would also like to teach more blind dancers, as there are few moments more rewarding than seeing our class dance in unison after working so hard to learn the choreography.”
Bayhack says teaching BeMoved has enriched her life. “Covid is also making us feel so lonely and in need of connection, but you can’t be sad in a BeMoved class, unless Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli’s ‘The Prayer’ comes on—that song makes me cry every time,” she jokes.
As a part of this new chapter, Bayhack is currently going back to school for a degree in criminal justice. “Going back to college is both exhilarating and humbling,” she says. “I wish I had studied this hard in journalism school—decades ago. I really care about my grades now that I’m paying my own tuition!”
Do yourself a favor and take Bayhack’s class. If you walk away feeling even half as inspired as I did after talking to her on the phone, then that’s a “win.”
“I love to see my class evolve from week one to week four,” she adds. “They start out tentative and deliberate and end up totally rocking out to Earth, Wind and Fire’s ‘September’ or A Taste of Honey’s ‘Boogie, Oogie, Oogie.’ It just doesn’t get better than that.”