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If you go
What: Louis van Amstel’s LaBlast workshop and master class
When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday for workshop; 5:30 p.m. Saturday for the master class
Where: Jorgensen Family YMCA, 10313 Aboite Center Road
Admission: $399 for workshop, $25 for master class; workshop and master class is open to YMCA members and non-members; workshop limited to 20 people; registration available at
Courtesy photo
Louis Van Amstel is taking a break from “Dancing With the Stars” this season and is hosting a workshop in the city.

Dance with a star at local exercise workshop

Shelley Paulausky was surprised to receive a phone call from “Dancing With the Stars” professional dancer Louis van Amstel – she was sure she didn’t give her number to any three-time world champion dancers lately.

“I teach Zumba at the Jorgenson YMCA, and someone who has taken a class with me, took a class with him and told him about me. It was really exciting to get a call from him,” she says.

Taking a hiatus from ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” this season, Van Amstel is traveling to Fort Wayne to teach his dance exercise program, LaBlast, to potential instructors in a two-day workshop. He will also teach a master class for the public so they can experience the program from the creator himself.

Rivaling dance-centric programs like Zumba, the partner-free program offers aerobic exercises while instructing how to dance.

Paulausky has been a Zumba instructor at the Jorgensen YMCA for six years; often teaching classes with her mother, Cindy Brandt. She is also a competitive ballroom dancer who will participate in the “Dancing With the Fort Wayne Stars” benefit in November. Hearing about her dance and fitness background, Van Amstel contacted her about his workshop.

“He said he really liked hearing about me and my mom teaching together,” she says. “I told him we’d be a great place to come to in Fort Wayne.”

With LaBlast classes popping up in multiple cities and more than 40 European dance studios, Van Amstel travels to fitness centers to lead LaBlast workshops to expand its market.

“The LaBlast teachers program is growing like absolute wildfire,” Van Amstel says by phone from New York. “A little bit to my surprise, the Midwest is taking the lead.”

As of now, Ohio is second only to New York in the U.S. for having the most LaBlast classes. By the end of Sunday, Paulausky and her workshop classmates will be able to begin local LaBlast classes, which will be the first for Indiana.

Van Amstel began the first LaBlast classes in a small dance studio, teaching a few friends in 2006 after the second season of “Dancing With the Stars.”

“If you create something, you’re always the most anxious. Even if you have people who have taken classes for years say it’s the next big thing,” Van Amstel says. “But after hearing it all and having done the program worldwide, I am no longer surprised of the success because I realized 30 years of dance experience, and being a world champion three times, brings something to the table.”

Van Amstel says dancing with celebrity partners for nine seasons on “Dancing With the Stars” inspired LaBlast. Van Amstel says that TV personalities such as Lisa Rinna and Kelly Osbourne started the show with no dance experience and were considered some of the top dancers by the end of their seasons. Not only did Osbourne come in third in the competition, she lost 20 pounds with Van Amstel’s help.

“I know we have so many millions of viewers that would love to learn to dance but think they can’t do it, or they want to lose a lot weight but don’t feel confident,” he says. “I thought I need to make a dance program that you don’t need a partner and can lose a lot of weight, but is a lot of fun and takes away the intimidation factor.”

By the end of the dancing TV show’s season in 2009, Van Amstel had fully developed an exercise program that he tested in his native country of the Netherlands. The program has five levels, from basic dance steps to more challenging choreography as the student advances. Van Amstel uses a bevy of dance styles including cha cha, disco and the Viennese waltz, accompanied by music from Elvis Presley to Rihanna.

“It starts at level one, which absolutely caters to people who think they can’t dance or think they’re clumsy or uncoordinated,” he says. “That’s what I realized makes LaBlast successful – it’s the logic of movement and the logic of the way it’s structured. It gives people who think they can’t dance an opportunity to learn through logic.”

Out of the testimonials he receives, Van Amstel says the majority are from women who say their husbands have been surprised by their transformations from the inside out. He says his main mission with LaBlast is to draw more people into dance and to help those who need a self-image boost.

“What people really experience is a journey,” he says. “You get all these results physically, and emotionally you just feel better about yourself.”