Q&A: Kickin’ It With Eliza Shirazi
Eliza Shirazi, a recent UMass Amherst grad, loves to move. Starting out as a dancer, Shirazi transformed her usual gym workout into a fast-paced kickboxing class that gets gym-goers moving and moving fast. From Amherst, to Chestnut Hill, to Newton, to Cape Town, South Africa, Eliza is spreading her love of movement and music wherever she goes.
First, what is Kick It With Eliza?
Kick It With Eliza basically encompasses my signature classes, which are cardio kickboxing and a Pilates dance based class. All my classes are tuned into music and choreography; they both have more of a dance feel to them. My Pilates dance class, Soothe and Sculpt, has really relaxed feel, and it’s more focused on toning. We listen to soulful, R&B type music. The cardio kick classes are more top 40 based, you know, music people really want to dance and move around to.
How and why did you start Kick?
I danced for 17 years, five of which I competed, and when I went to college I wanted to keep moving but in some kind of different way. I took a step class at school and I thought, yeah, I could do this, so I took that and transformed it into a cardio kickboxing class. I started teaching it with only three girls behind me but it took off and pretty soon I had seventy people in every class. It was so unexpected.
People love cardio kick as a way to get fierce and really sweat, and Soothe and Sculpt gets people really emotional. I actually have had people start crying during class if they’ve had a really bad day. Music is such a great way to pull emotions out of people. I also started doing Kick-a-thons at school, which are two hour fundraisers. It was great because it was all students. I would bring a DJ with me, a student DJ, and I was a student teacher, and people loved it. Room to Read is the main organization I fundraise for and I’m actually heading down to D.C. later this year to do a fundraiser at GWU.
How has Kick changed since you graduated?
I just graduated this past May and I knew it would change a lot because UMass is like any other college – it’s a bubble. So I knew coming into Boston would be different. I just got hired by Equinox, which was really exciting for me. And I’m starting to set up a schedule to teach classes there. They’re in the middle of opening up their Chestnut Hill location, and there have been some delays there but I’m hoping within the next month I’ll have a set schedule there. I also do a virtual cardio kick class for DanceFit which is based in Brookline. And my full-time job, the one that takes up the most hours in my week, is working with Brigham and Women’s on ClimbCorps which is basically trying to get Boston residents to take more stairs. So I definitely have a lot of movement going on in my life right now! Down the line, I do plan on opening a studio of my own. It’s definitely a work in progress, but it’s an important goal of mine.
You traveled to Cape Town, South Africa, too? Can you tell me a little about that?
Yeah, I studied abroad there in the spring of 2012, and I brought Kick to the University of Cape Town. It was really different from Amherst’s gym – it was really small and there was barely a schedule. It was kind of the same way I started at Amherst though; at first there were like five people and they were saying, “Who is this American girl? What does she think she’s doing?” But by the end of the semester, I had over 40 people in every class. It was amazing, I didn’t know it would have the same effect in another country.
What’s your favorite part about Kick?
My favorite part is definitely the connection I make with people during class. They connect with you instantly as you’re both flailing your arms around in cardio kick. And music connects people, it’s great. People are really angry and fierce in cardio kick and Soothe and Sculpt brings all this deep emotion out of people, it’s amazing. Even people I see on the street now who are from UMass say, “Hey, how are you? I miss Kick, when are you teaching?” It’s a really great feeling.
Is there anything that you hate about working out?
There’s nothing that I hate about working out, but I hate when I’m on the treadmill! I hate that still motion, just hours on end. That’s why I created Kick in the first place so I could move around and move with other people. I hate that static, solitary treadmill movement.