Like wild mustangs galloping over the dusty Nevada horizon, it came our way without warning: a thing of raw, natural beauty.
As reported yesterday by New Times' equine dance-fitness bureau chief, Prancercise is a global multimedia phenomenon started by Coral Springs resident Joanna Rohrback.
In her book (Prancercise) and videos (Prancercise: A Fitness Workout), Rohrback evangelizes what she describes as "a springy, rhythmic way of moving forward, similar to a horse's gait and is ideally induced by elation." But as Cultist learned in a phone call with Rohrback, the story of Prancercise is not one just of elation but of struggle, a healing journey back from the brink, and copyright infringement of the Funkadelic back catalogue.
Before we begin, take a look at Rohrback in action:
Prancercise is not an overnight success but, rather, was nearly a quarter century in the making.
"I created the program in 1989 and I finished the book in 1994 but I never published it," Rohrback tells us. In spite of the successful completion of a test video entitled Funky Punky Prancercise -- full of what Rohback calls "rhyme rap" -- fate had other plans in store for Rohrback and her funky punky parts.
"I had a female condition," she says. "I never got operated on so I couldn't exercise for, like, 10 years in the 2000s."
Meanwhile, Prancercise was put on hold.
"When I spoke with publishers, they wanted guaranteed market demand but I was doing everything by myself. No support, no husband, nothing. That made it like Mt. Everest so, rather than be depressed, I shelved it for several years."
Life continued apace, though less at a canter and more at a beleaguered trot. Rohrback had attended the University of Miami's School of Nursing but completed her degree at FAU in Health Administration.
"Then I was a social worker for the state. Boring! That was for four years. I did every job under the sun while working towards my dream. Cocktail waitressing, you name it. When you're one person without connections, it's hard to do."
But, even if she would have wanted to put the video out in the world, Rohrback knew that the authorities would never allow its release.
"The music was copyrighted so I couldn't use it," she says. "The video back from 1989 was a lot of old Motown. I love Motown. There were songs by the Funkadelics, Aretha Franklin."
Over this music, she sang her own "rhyme rap," lyrics like: "Put some glide in your stride / some dip in your hip. / There ain't no place that ugly fat is gonna stick."
But without Prancercise, the ugly fat did stick. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "During the past 20 years, there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States and rates remain high." The CDC's most recent statistics claim that 35.7% of adults in the U.S. are obese. By contrast, the same organization does not even bother keeping track of traditionally low horse obesity statistics.
Battling her "female condition" -- she didn't give us specifics -- Rohrback put herself on a natural healing regimen and by her 61st birthday last July, she was able to start prancercising again. By November of last year, she was able to prancercise all five kilometers of a Turkey Trot race, leading a team of other prancercisers whom she had personally trained. Prancercise, like a stud horse rampant with its terrifying phallus glistening in the noonday sun, was finally poised for domination.
The world has changed its attitude towards acting like a horse since the days of Funky Punky Prancercise. The leaner, meaner Prancercise program enters a world in which the horse-riding "Gangnam Style" dance is all the rage.
"What that dance does," she begins, flustered. She pauses to comport herself. "What it almost does is imitate someone screwing someone. At best, it is someone riding a horse. I'm against riding a horse; I'd rather move alongside a horse and not exert my will on another creature."
Though she rode horses while at sleep-away camps as a child, those days are behind her.
"I'm totally against horse racing and against all that," she says. "Let the horse enjoy its free will."
So in the new videos she created last year, Rohrback does not mimic riding a horse but embodies the motions of the horse itself. Embracing the way of the horse presents several obstacles. For starters, most horses have four legs and most humans have two.
"But," Rohrback counters, "don't horses imitate humans when they dance with the Lipizzaners? And it's harder for a horse to do that."
She doesn't even feel a need to put her hair up in a ponytail. Her horse-like qualities come from within.
"I don't think about it. I feel like I look a little like a clydesdale. I don't really care and I'm not concerned with how my hair looks. If I were shy, how could I prancercise?"
And with her new videos come new rhymes. Rhyming is integral to fitness, Rohrback says. "It's really important because everything has rhythm. And rhyme makes rhythm out of words."
She has gotten around government censorship this time by using public domain music samples. But her rhymes are as uncompromising as ever. Consider: "It's better to be punching into space than in your face." Or: "We're going to really cut the noose and let it loose."
In talking with Rohrback, we couldn't help but cut the noose and let it loose ourselves. And so we told her about our childhood friend Rebecca, who had confessed to us that she believed she was a horse trapped inside a human body. Together, we went to a field behind our elementary school and ran wild as horses.
"That's beautiful," Rohback told us. "I bet it's so freeing. It must be like a freeing feeling."
This puzzled us. After all this time, hadn't Rohrback -- now the creator of a worldwide craze -- ever had the simple pleasure of prancercising alongside a horse?
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"I haven't," she told us with equal measures of disappointment and hope. "That's my dream."
To learn more about Prancercise and what it can do for you, visit Prancercise.com