It’s Tuesday night at GT Bray Park and Recreation Center. Kelly Winton dials down the thermostat in the center’s group exercise room before her 6:30 class starts. It’s not necessarily hot in the room to begin with, but with Winton’s new Bang Power Dance class, she knows it will quickly heat up.
Winton is the first Athletics and Fitness Association of America-certified instructor in Florida to teach Bang Power Dance, a music-driven choreographed dance fitness class created in 2012 by Amanda Strand and Benjamin Bidlack in the Washington, D.C., area. Participants wear weighted boxing gloves and learn routines that incorporate dance steps and mixed martial arts for a challenging cardiovascular workout.
During the same year Strand and Bidlack created Bang, Winton, now 49, was getting certified to teach Zumba fitness while she was living in Alabama. Zumba is an aerobic fitness program heavily influenced by Latin American culture and dance. For her entire life, Winton has loved dancing and hates anything that feels explicitly like exercise. To her, Bang Power Dance and Zumba feel more like hour-long parties during which people also happen to get a great workout.
In Bang Power Dance classes, which are carefully choreographed and designed to create a high-intensity workout, three levels of intensity provide options for those with sensitive knees or other limitations. The Bang Power Dance tagline boasts the “fun, fierce, urban” format of the classes. Winton always encourages participants, whether in her Zumba or Bang Power Dance classes, to “listen to your body” and make adjustments as needed.
She moved to Bradenton with her husband, Charlie Humber, and daughter, Joie Winton, in the fall of 2012. Soon she found herself at the Bridge Church, 4000 75th St. W., to attend Zumba classes taught by another instructor. She began teaching her own classes at the Bridge, albeit slowly, by helping the other instructor at first. She also practiced on some teachers she knew in the Anna Maria Elementary school cafeteria after school.
Winton had to warm up to the idea of being in front of a crowd, much less instructing a dance class. She was so nervous before her first classes that she would get physically sick before they started.
“I’ve always been terrified to get up in front of people to speak or do anything,” Winton said. “I’m not brave at all. It’s way, way out of my comfort zone.”
She credits lots of prayer and support from friends, family and most of all, the people in her classes for helping her overcome her fear.
One thing I respect most about instructors is when they’re the same person in class and outside of class. That energy and attitude she (Kelly Winton) has in class, when you’re interacting with her as a person is the exact same. She’s easy to be around and she’s fun to be around
Mallory Carteaux, Manatee County Fitness and Wellness Coordinator
In the beginning, she also subbed for other Zumba instructors at the Bradenton YMCA, which helped her practice more on smaller groups. To give her Bridge classes a little more variety, she started doing a moonlight Zumba class once a month on the outdoor astroturf at GT Bray, 5502 33rd Ave. Dr. W. The Bridge classes grew substantially over time, Winton said, and the moonlight Zumba attracted a new group of participants.
In 2015, Manatee County’s Fitness and Wellness Coordinator, Mallory Carteaux, offered Winton a job as a Zumba instructor at GT Bray.
“I told them I would do it as long as I could keep it free,” Winton said. “And she said, ‘Sure, no problem.’ ”
Winton wanted to bring Bang Power Dance to Bradenton ever since she started following Strand on YouTube in early 2014. She talked the idea over with Carteaux, who was open to the idea of bringing in a new format. Humber knew she wanted to pursue the certification and encouraged her to go forward.
In September, she found affordable flights from Sarasota Bradenton International Airport to Washington, D.C., and booked a weekend trip with her friends Jen Kroeger and Denise Zangger, who both also got certified. Kroeger will soon be teaching Bang Power Dance classes in Sarasota and Zangger is a seasonal Bradenton resident who hopes to teach overseas.
Kelly is a great dancer and fitness professional. She is also a fantastic leader. She attracts people to her with her vitality, her focus and her tremendous energy. She gets things done, always with a smile and a laugh.
Amanda Strand, creator of Bang Power Dance, to the Bradenton Herald in an email
Even Carteaux, who isn’t typically into dance fitness classes, enjoyed Winton’s Bang Power Dance preview class and “was really excited for the potential with that class.”
“We try to stay on the cutting edge of the fitness community, especially for a community fitness center,” Carteaux said. “When she approached me I was like, ‘Great, you’re already awesome, you have a huge following, your energy is super infectious and so let’s do it.’ ”
Winton now teaches two Bang Power Dance classes at GT Bray, one on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. and another on Saturday morning at 9. She’s also moved all of her Zumba classes to GT Bray.
The group becomes your friends and then they become your family, and it’s so much more than that. We’re not just exercising; we’re helping each other move and taking care of each other when we’re sick and watching Cubs games together. It’s easy and we’ve grown so much.
Kelly Winton, Bang Power Dance and Zumba fitness instructor at GT Bray
Without first teaching Zumba and finding the tribe of supporters, Winton isn’t sure she would have ended up branching out with Bang.
“It built up my confidence and people got to know me,” she said. “I got so much practice and met so many people.”
And to her, the group has become more than a fitness class.
“I can’t get over how wonderful everyone is,” Winton said. “I have never met a group of people like this, where someone walks in the door and they’re welcome.”
Bang Power Dance gloves, which come with half-pound and one-pound weights that can be inserted in the machine-washable gloves, can be ordered through Strand’s Paypal account for $30, which includes shipping. In the comment of the Paypal purchase, specify “Bang Power Dance gloves”
Although six classes in five days every week might seem intense to some, Winton is ready to take on another Bang Power Dance class when the demand is there. She’s “in love with Bang” and determined to make it succeed in Bradenton.
“I would like to see it grow in Florida,” she said. “I love what I’m doing right now. I don’t want to do anything different except maybe add another class. I’m so happy. I’m absolutely thrilled.”
For a full schedule of GT Bray’s fitness classes, visit https://www.mymanatee.org/home/government/departments/parks-and-recreation/bray_recreation_center/group-Exercise-schedule.html or visit Winton’s Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/211103352429290/.