Working Out With Aaron Tolson

Bernardo Nogueira, Courtesy Só Dança

The hoofer created his own tap-based workout class to get fit.

Despite an exhausting weekly schedule rehearsing for upcoming performances, teaching at Broadway Dance Center, working with private students and traveling for workshops and shows, New York hoofer Aaron Tolson had a surprising realization: “As I get older, tap dancing is not keeping me physically fit.”

The father of two decided to find a way to make his career last longer—and fulfill one of his dreams: “I wanted to get as many people tapping as I could.”

So he developed a combination cardio, strengthening and tap class called Sole Power. It fuses his tap expertise with knowledge he gained from his record-setting track career, which had earned him a full scholarship to St. John’s University and an invitation to the 1996 U.S. Olympic Trials. “It’s a tap class that never stops moving,” says Tolson, with a laugh.

Intended for non-dancers, Sole Power requires no previous dance experience or rhythmic ability. Each class begins with an introduction of basic tap steps—such as shuffles, flaps, step-heels and heel-toes—that eventually form a short sequence that students repeat in between exercises to keep their heart rates up. Students alternate between learning simple tap technique and performing exercises like lunges and squats, to which a tap component (like heel drops) is added. Even as Tolson demonstrates the next activity, the class stays in motion by repeating the interval or doing marches and step-touches.

The final exercise is tap trenches, which require alternately sliding each leg back while reaching the opposite arm perpendicular to the floor. Then students work on a long combination and end the class by cooling down with stretching.

Sole Power recently launched at Crunch Gym locations around New York City and Los Angeles, and will soon be in more cities as Tolson trains new teachers, or “Solemates.”

Tolson estimates that students can burn between 300 and 600 calories in each hour-long class. “It exercises your body and your mind,” he says. “When you tap, you have to focus—you can’t let your mind wander. You don’t even realize how hard you’re working.”

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Sole Power Results

Tolson credits his own creation with making him healthier and stronger. Teaching the class has helped him to lose about 30 pounds and relieve his tendonitis and knee pain. His other secret? Eliminating peanut butter and desserts from his diet.

No Tap Shoes Necessary

Students wear Power Soles, shoe covers with plastic taps that don’t ruin floors. They can also be used as beginner tap shoes, so students can practice anywhere.

Dedicated Dad

“I want to be fit for my kids,” Tolson says, referring to his daughters Charlotte, 3, and Alexis, 10 months. “The more fit I am now, the better off I’ll be in the long run with them.”

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