On June 22nd Louis Van Amstel of “Dancing with the Stars” returns to Pritikin to host an exclusive LaBlast Class for guests.
An Emmy-nominated choreographer and three-time World Dance Champion, Van Amstel has appeared on several seasons of ABC’s hit TV show “Dancing with the Stars.” Competing on nine seasons, the professional dancer brought his choreography, inspiration and talent to center stage. But when he’s not performing or competing, he’s combining his passion for dance with a mission to get people moving.
Since 2007, Van Amstel has revolutionized the industry with his dance fitness program. With the goal of teaching people to dance, regardless of age or fitness level, Van Amstel created LaBlast – a partner-free dance program that promotes staying active and having fun.
In anticipation of his arrival, we had the chance to speak with Van Amstel and get the inside scoop on LaBlasting.
You created LaBlast in 2007 with DWTS partner Lisa Rinna. Can you talk about that process and where the inspiration came from?
Van Amstel: Lisa and I were partners on the 2006 season and then went on tour together. We did that three times and afterwards, Lisa said, “Louie, I blame you that I got so addicted to dancing, but I can’t go back on the show, so you have to create something for me.” I started a class – there were no other intentions, it was just a class – but within half a year I realized there was something more there.
“I made it my mission to change people’s minds about themselves.”
After my 2010 season [on DWTS] with Kelly Osbourne, I thought, this needs to be a worldwide brand, people need to learn to dance. So I made it my mission to change people’s minds about themselves. I never in a million years thought that a class with five people would become an enterprise, it’s fantastic. Now there are more than 1,100 instructors worldwide.
How did you get involved with Pritikin? What was your first LaBlast class with the guests like?
Van Amstel: The beauty of LaBlast is that when you grow and certify instructors, they come from all over. When I did my certification in Tampa, Florida, there was a woman who did the training. She had already been a ballroom dancer and loved the mission of LaBlast. She’s now an ambassador elect and her husband had been at Pritikin so she got me involved. During that first time at Pritikin, the class was packed, people were dancing on the carpets! All of them stayed for the entire hour, we all had the best time.
LaBlast is a full-body workout but [people in the class] are also having an amazing time, hearing their favorite songs – you name it, we dance to it. So they walk out having had a great time, but having also worked on agility, strength training, cardio and so much more. And yes, they’re drenched in sweat, but they’ve finally realized they can do what they thought they could never do, so even tears are fine and then we get the big smile.
Whether it’s on the show or in a class, what is that transformation like for people?
Van Amstel: What you get out of it as a teacher is when you see the change in people, like I’ve seen with Paula Deen, or Kelly Osbourne, even Lisa Ritter. They did not start off the way they ended – I mean, what a transformation!
Even in class I see people change within half an hour. It takes about five minutes for blood circulation to warm up and about 20 minutes to emotionally warm up. So when that half hour hits in class, I see people start to let down their guard. Give up control guys, listen to the music, I always say. When you see that change happen – even though it’s not about you – that feeling you get from affecting people and changing their lives just by seeing a smile or a tear because of a breakthrough, to me that is better than winning a competition. It’s priceless. That’s why I love doing LaBlast.
Speaking of transformation, what was it like working with Kelly Osbourne on DWTS?
Van Amstel: It was for me, the confirmation of everything I’ve always felt. When I met her she couldn’t even stand up straight – in her defense she did have six-inch heels on! But she thought she could never do it.
So we started the show and I realized that the musicality was there and we combined that with movement. The more she started to believe, the more her physical body started changing and she became better and better in front of America. It was such an inspiration to see that happen.
What would you say to anyone intimidated to take a LaBlast class for the first time?
Van Amstel: I have always said and believed that anyone can dance. It’s a lot of psych that stops us from dancing – a lot of people have self images issues and that’s why people don’t dare to express themselves. And that’s not just dance. We have that problem as human beings. We don’t do a certain thing because we’re not good at it – all the more reason to jump off that cliff and find a way to do it!
In LaBlast, we keep it simple. It’s based on a multi-level program in which the teachers learn to be aware of their group. It’s not about [the teacher], it’s about the people in the class. So through the power of movement and great music, over time they learn to dance and they even forget the pain of arthritis or heart health. They get stronger mentally, physically and emotionally.
What is the most important part of LaBlast?
Van Amstel: If a person is physically present but emotionally not present, they’ll burn one-third less calories. The more you get involved, the more calories you’ll burn. Mind, body and soul – it all comes from that philosophy and that is why LaBlast is continuing to grow. I have learned in the last 10 years on the show and building LaBlast we need to give up control, let our physical body enjoy the things the body doesn’t allow us to be. And we’re winning. We’re getting more and more instructors that believe in that mission. Slowly but surely.
Emotional involvement is the No. 1 thing we do in LaBlast. When you have a good time, you get more involved. So get out of your head and get involved!
— Louis van Amstel (@LouisVanAmstel) April 23, 2016
What is one thing you hope Pritikin guests take away from your class?
Van Amstel: A double whammy – having a great time and still working on improving on their health. It’s that simple.