by Gina B.

In the spirit of “new year, new me,” I took the advice of a fellow journalist and decided to take a class at Kookie’s Dance Den. Jasmine “Kookie” Daniels herself suggested that I attend the beginner’s Tease class, which would provide a great introduction to her studio and concept. I was instructed to arrive a few minutes early and wear fishnets, or whatever made me feel empowered. She promised that I would be hooked after just one class. A few hours later, I arrived at the Dance Den, on 103rd street in the Washington Heights neighborhood, clad in leggings and my cutest tank top, ready for a great time.

I was buzzed in and greeted by Kookie, with her big smile, lush red mane, and voluptuous figure in fishnet stockings and a sexy backless leotard.The reception area was complete with branded merchandise, including exercise and dancewear, and the signature Sugar Kookie Shaper waist trainer. Kookie pointed out decanters of water and wine that she offers her students. She suggests the water for hydration and a little bit of wine to take the edge off, if necessary. I was led into the studio, which was awash in red mood lighting with a wall of mirrors and pristine wood floors.

Kookie – who is as sweet as her nickname suggests– shared her story. She was trained in the Katherine Dunham technique and also studied with the famed Joffrey Ballet. Although she pursued coursework in sociology at Chicago State University, Kookie, was always a dancer and choreographer of the dance team. She got her start while practicing her dance routine at a private studio, off campus. “The woman who owned the space saw me rehearsing and asked if I taught public classes,” Kookie explained. “I said no, and she said ‘you should teach public classes.’ I thought about it, and a couple of weeks later I called her back, and that’s how I got started teaching. I rented space in nine studios before opening my own space. It was God’s purpose.” Fast forward five years, Kookie’s Dance Den is a successful business with a colorful repertoire of classes and enthusiastic members. Her mission is threefold. First, to provide encouragement to previous or would-be dancers, and let them know that it’s never too late to dance. Second, to offer alternative methods of working out, outside of the gym. Finally, to let women know that our sexual power never goes away.

Kookie and her two assistants led the class through rounds of stretching, warm-up drills and a choreographed routine. We challenged ourselves and clapped for each other. The two-hour session went quickly, and ended with hugs, new friends and several women (including myself) signing up for either full monthly memberships or a $25 Three-Class Pass, a special offered only to new students on the night of their first lesson. Kookie was right; I was hooked, and I can’t wait to return.

For descriptions of signature classes, such as Booty Kall, TwerkUp, Sinful Stilettos and Hollyhood, please visit her website: www. classeswithkookie.com. For a sneak peek into Kookie’s methods and classes, she invites anyone to follow her on Facebook and/or Instagram, and watch her videos @classeswithkookie.

Kookie’s Dance Den is located at 857 W. 103rd St., Chicago.