a new kind of dance fitness in hawaii

Michelle Liu
March 09, 2023

It's a scene that stops locals and tourists in their tracks — dozens of people dancing at Magic Island with music blasting and the sunset as a backdrop.

Photo courtesy Nick Ashe/Ocean Aperture

Kazaxe (pronounced kah-zah-SHAY) is a cardio and dance fitness workout that incorporates a wide range of music from dancehall to soca to hip hop. While the moves are easy to follow, the exercise is highly energetic and intense. 

Asuka Boutcher created Kazaxe in 2007 after moving from Okinawa to the U.S. She established its headquarters in Virginia, where there's still just one brick-and-mortar location for classes — a large warehouse known as "The Underground" that can house more than 150 students at a time.

That's where Shannon Ashe started taking classes in 2012. 

"I was immediately hooked by the music, the laid-back and friendly atmosphere, the club lighting and bass, and the diversity of people attending," Ashe says. "I went to classes as often as I could and started the process of becoming an instructor."

Ashe started teaching Kazaxe just a year later. When she moved to Hawaii in 2019, she was looking for a similar type of workout but couldn't find the right fit. So she decided to bring Kazaxe to Honolulu early last year.

“The blend of dance, intense fitness, and fun that I was craving from Kazaxe — there's nothing like it!" Ashe says. "I love that I've been able to share Kazaxe with Hawaii and that we've started building our own community here over the past year."

Dianne Morada is part of the community. In fact, she also took classes in Virginia before moving to Hawaii. 

"Kazaxe is a gateway to fitness for me," Morada says. "It's my favorite high-intensity cardio workout! Since we're dancing, the time passes quickly and I don't want it to end."

She says it’s the perfect stress reliever at the end of a busy day.

"It's a time for me to let go and just be myself, so I feel really happy and present during class," Morada says. "It can be a bit painful sometimes because I have to get low and squat for most of the dance moves, but I know the soreness and pain is worth it."

Between dancing, intense cardio, and fun music, Kazaxe is also a high-energy class because of Ashe herself. She exudes positivity and it quickly spreads throughout the group.

Photo courtesy Nick Ashe/Ocean Aperture

"I'm always in awe of how Shannon remembers all the moves and manages to keep her and the class’s energy up," Morada says.

"Regardless of how I'm feeling, I do my best to give everything I have during the hour I'm teaching class," Ashe says. "Everyone's busy and there are endless ways to exercise in Honolulu, so I want to make it worthwhile for those who take time out of their day to attend."

Ashe says Kazaxe can be for anyone regardless of fitness level, dance ability, or age. She shows modifications for every move.

"I want everyone in class to feel challenged, but also capable and motivated to do their best," Ashe says. "Most importantly, I want them to enjoy the experience. Hopefully, by the time class ends, you'll be sweating but smiling!"

If you're interested in trying Kazaxe, classes are held every Tuesday and Thursday at 5:45 p.m. at Magic Island, depending on the weather. Classes are donation-based. Ashe also teaches Kazaxe on the weekends in Waikiki.

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