Despite the flashy branding, trademarks, and other attempts to own fitness, there is really only so much "new" that we can get in the fitness world. When there is that little window of novelty, it becomes blown into a mass-marketing enterprise. For instance, Zumba brought something new to the fitness scene (ad the dance fitness scene in particular), but the novelty of the Latin moves and music was not all it brought. It also brought proof that a fitness trend can be big business--an empire. Because of this status, Zumba has to find new ways to grow. Thus, their new program STRONG by Zumba draws upon the popularity of Zumba's world-wide brand as well as the recent turn in the fitness world to HITT and strength-based programs. The similarities between STRONG and other programs, like MOSSA's Group Fight/Defend Together, reflect fitness trends rather than revolutionary new approaches.
So, all of this brings me back to my previous explorations of PL3Y and The Groove Method. The falling out between these two fitness forms is instructive not only regarding the business side of the fitness world, but also in understanding the role of dance and play--two marginalized approaches to fitness--within the fitness world.
With some digging, I found that The Groove Method has gone by several names, and has been embroiled in battles over who owns the content and concept of "Groove." In terms of the arguments I make about fitness--in my book, in my academic "American Fitness" class, and in my fitness teaching--"The Groove" is worth knowing more about. And so is the controversy over Groove's ownership, a conflict that is representative with the problems of branding and ownership in the fitness industry.
A January 2013 post explains a bit about the controversy surrounding "theGROOVE"--as described by Misty Tripoli, "having my life’s work claimed by someone else that I trusted." In a post on a page titled "My History of the Groove by Misty Tripoli," a joint statement from Misty and Melanie Guertin informs readers of the resolved differences and the names and sites that each woman can claim as her own. Melanie Guertin's "PL3Y Inc." and "DANCEPL3Y" share many of the same philosophies--like the need for an evolution of fitness, safe and effective workouts, and for happiness and health--but is quite different from what has become "THEGROOVE."
PL3Y's focus encourages playfulness, fun, positive thinking, happiness and health, and notes the variety of genres and the "hottest" music. Dance is only one of its approaches to fitness. The site explains DANCEPL3Y as: "based on an innovative teaching style that uses a 360-degree approach, combined with playful group formations. This methodology allows students to learn movements in a less intimidating context than traditional dance classes while encouraging each person to get interACTIVE and explore their own way of styling the movement*." The asterisk notes that it was "inspired by the GROOVE Method" and the similarities are clear in terms of the movements, the class space and structure, and the basic concept of playing with dance.
In many ways, PL3Y, in all its incarnations--Dance, Power, and Playground--are really just tweaks on traditional fitness programs. It gives dance more freedom, movement, and creativity. It gives conditioning a playful element and it redefines fitness by creating community settings. The philosophies are rather simple and straightforward with "3 Rules of Pl3Y" (be positive, be fun, be yourself) and values of playfulness, passion, leadership, community, abundance as well as a vision "To inspire positivity and playfulness through physical activity." PL3Y calls its certified instructors "engineers of awesome" and provides a variety of resources to these "engineers" for a membership price. The site and programs have a corporate feel to them as well as a familiarity.
PL3Y is certainly a program to be celebrated in terms of bringing fitness to individuals and communities in ways that undermine the narrow strictures of the fitness industry. "THEGROOVE," on the other hand, is about dance as fitness, and it dares to go deeper and further from traditional fitness forms. Compared to PL3Y, THEGROOVE has a depth, a desire to transform consciousness, a whole sense of the self--a movement that inspires beyond the physical and beyond joy. The "Technology of AUTHENTICITY" that guides and shapes THEGROOVE makes space for more than just physical movement.
As Tripoli writes in a What's New post (link): "THEGROOVE™ is for people that LOVE to dance creatively and authentically, people that want to challenge, explore and play with their bodies to not only cultivate physical health but to condition and enhance the health of their mind (thoughts and ideas), the heart (passions and desires) and the soul (expression and purpose). The truth is that authenticity and creative self expression are just as important as having a healthy body or a tight ass!" (The "tight ass" part here speaks to Misty's personal history with bulimia and body dysmorphia while being "healthy" working in the fitness industry, which she shares as the impetus for her development of Groove.)
Misty directly challenges the ideology of the fitness industry that contributed to her poor health veiled behind aesthetic priorities. She is not content to create a fitness dance program; she wants to create a global movement. The mission: "To inspire and assist in the elevation of global consciousness, creativity, and vibrant health by giving people permission and the space to be authentic and dance THEIR DANCE!" The values: simplicity, community, authenticity. With three training levels--providers, facilitators, and designers--as well as a master team and ambassadors, THEGROOVE provides training and programming around the world.
The concept of play encourages us to explore movement; the concept of authenticity encourages us to explore ourselves through that movement. THEGROOVE seeks a more holistic approach to fitness through dance and its programs have a more "new age" feel to them compared to PL3Y. For instance, THEGROOVE's "Just Love" retreat and ideas about therapeutic dance for the mind, body, and soul. The posts provided under "what's new with THEGROOVE" show the evolution of Groove through Misty's own evolution.
THEGROOVE is a program that was created organically from Misty's experience and it continues to grow that way as well. It is like Nia and Organic Dance and 5Rhythms and other similar forms of mind/body fitness dance because ultimately all of these forms are creating fitness dance that pushes against mainstream ideas of fitness and dance. They provide structured freedom, community, pleasure, play, and conditioning. They seek to feed the body, mind, and soul.
PL3Y is more vanilla, more digestible by the mainstream. It does not look that different, even though it does greatly differ from traditional, mainstream approaches to fitness. THEGROOVE, like Nia, is chocolate. As I quote Nia founders Debbie and Carlos Rosas, in Women and Fitness in American Culture, "Debbie and Carlos are right. Nia is like chocolate. 'You can't describe it--you have to taste it' (3). And while there are some people who don't like chocolate, those who like it, love it and can't live without it." But, lucky for us, we can have chocolate and vanilla and all of the (as Ani DiFranco reminds us) "32 Flavors and then some." And with all these forms we make our own flavor, borrow flavors, mix them, and change the taste and very nature of fitness.