This Instructor and Pro-Turned-Student Dance for the Joy of It

She’s teaching a format that’s new for her. He was a pro at it. Now Manik Khanna is taking Alejandra Jara’s class—and despite the difference in their experience, their mutual love for BollyX puts them on common ground.

After graduating from business and fashion school, Jara moved to New York for an exciting adventure. But as she settled into her new surroundings, she realized that she’d gained 15 pounds.

Jara knew it was time to get moving again and make her health a priority, so she joined 24 Hour Fitness Hasbrouck Heights in New Jersey and got to work.

“I followed a fitness program with an amazing personal trainer and went from a size 8 to 4 in pants and from a medium to an extra-small in shirts!” she exclaims. “[The experience helped] me build more confidence and also share my story with lots of friends who deal with [being] overweight and other health conditions.”

Inspired by the feedback she found at her gym, Jara decided to take it to the next level and became a certified GX instructor in 2017. Growing up in a fitness-oriented family, she’d always had a love for dance—practicing ballet and Latin rhythm for years—but she never realized how much joy she got from teaching it.

“I started teaching Zumba to stay active, lose weight and earn some extra money,” Jara says. But what began as a way to maintain a healthy lifestyle turned into a true passion for group fitness—and the sense of community that comes with it.

“I went from teaching two classes to 15 classes a week!” Jara says, adding Les Mills BODYPUMP, Pop Pilates and BollyX to her repertoire.

Jara recognized that adding some cultural diversity to the GX offerings would appeal to her club’s members, and she became the first and only BollyX instructor at 24 Hour Fitness Hasbrouck Heights. In turn, her class has inspired Jara to take professional Bollywood dance classes and to set her own dance goals.

One member who had a major impact on Jara is Manik Khanna. Khanna has had a passion for dance since he was a teenager, and Jara could tell the IT professional also had pro dance experience when he walked into her class. In fact, he had appeared on “Dance Singapore Dance,” and after moving to the United States, he craved the opportunity to find an outlet for his passion.

“When [Khanna] walked into my class, I could tell that he was a professional Bollywood dancer,” Jara says. “I was a little intimidated, but it also encouraged me.”

What started out as hesitation, however, soon grew into a friendship fueled by their mutual love for dance. (The pair now practice Bollywood choreography together outside of class.)

“After a long working day, it’s the dance workouts that keep me moving and motivated,” Khanna says, “and Alejandra’s BollyX and Zumba classes are all that I look forward to. [She’s] a blessing to the class and I learn so much from her.”

The community that both Khanna and Jara have found through dance at 24 Hour Fitness have been life-changing.

For Jara, teaching class allows her “to share the best version of myself.”

And as for Khanna, it’s simply, “Bliss.”

Photo: powerofforever, iStock