Anti-Trump aerobics: a new way to protest

Anti Trump Aerobic class participants stretching with ties at Alley Cat Bookstore in SF on April.30, 2017 (Kyler Knox/Xpress)

Correction: A previous version of the article contained a spelling error of Burdugo. Berdugo is the correct spelling. The error has since been corrected below.

Blue sweatbands, red leg warmers, ‘80s Madonna workout music and the collective chant of “don’t build a wall” were all part of a free anti-Trump aerobics class hosted at Alley Cat Book store in the Mission District Sunday afternoon.

The 50-minute class, led by SF State theatre and English literature alumna Margaret McCarthy and University of San Francisco art professor and artist Liat Berdugo, is part of “100 Days Action”, a “call to thinkers, artists, and writers to propose gestures that can be carried out either at home or in the world,” according to the website.

Ingrid Rojas-Contreras, one of the organization’s co-founders, said the actions are a creative way to express emotion and opposition against Trump during his first 100 days in office.

Berdugo and McCarthy were approached by organizers and asked to participate. Their unique response to the call was an aerobics class, according to Rojas-Contreras.

“We wanted to create a platform that responded to Trump’s first 100 days and creating artistic actions like this one,” Rojas-Contreras said. “The air is so tense right now, whenever we have a way that art can respond in a fun way, I really enjoy seeing the after effects of that.”

Berdugo, who has experience creating and leading conceptual aerobic classes, decided that a creative outlet that encourages an “embodied protest” would be a good contribution to “100 Days Action” events.  

The anti-Trump aerobics session was the finale of “100 Days of Action,” and guided participants through a series of dance moves and stretches allowing them to experience physical protest and exercise suppressed negative endorphins built up as a result of Trump’s presidency, according to McCarthy and Berdugo.

“The space that this aerobics fills is very light-hearted,” McCarthy said.

“It allows us to still be engaged with the things that are happening in our country right now, but also for allowing endorphins to flow from our body and make our body feel good and to approach these issues with a spirit of joy and laughing at the power, rather than getting to bogged down by it.”

Berdugo emphasized that the event was also designed to help participants maintain mental endurance that can be worn

(Kyler Knox/Xpress)

Anti Trump Aerobic class participants making an “X” with tie’s symbolizing blocking President Donald Stump at Alley Cat Bookstore in SF on April.30, 2017

down with tiresome and stressful emotions that can come from actively protesting and leading a resistance.

“We believe that resistance takes endurance; it is not something that happens in a single moment, that you do one day and stop doing the next day,” Berdugo said. “One thing that aerobics does historically, is that it builds your physical endurance … and for people participating in aerobics, we’re kind of building this metaphor that resistance takes endurance.”

The class was held in the skylighted gallery room of the bookstore and kicked off with the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive.” Berdugo and McCarthy began the class with hamstring stretches and handed out an aerobic class prop a red Trump-like tie, to all of the participants, which was used throughout the class.  

Berdugo and McCarthy both wore coordinated black leotards, leggings and red sweatbands and leg warmers, which McCarthy described as workout attire inspired by “vintage, Jane Fonda meets Donald Trump.”

The instructors led approximately 30 yoga pant-wearing, sweat-dripping participants in unique stretches like holding both ends of the tie tightly, bending down to the toes and making a swinging motion to mimic the stroke of a golf club. Participants chanted “fuck Mar-a-Lago” during exercises to poke fun at the president and his lavish vacation home and golf course.

Another move had attendees partner up and make an “X” with their ties, pivoting back and forth chanting “don’t build a wall.”

Rachel Fairbanks, a San Francisco resident, wanted to attend the aerobics class to have some fun and share a space with people who were also trying to cope with current events and the presidency.

“After the election I tried to figure out ways that I could make myself not go crazy, so this idea is actually coupling a lot of things that I really enjoy, which is making fun of Donald Trump and exercise,” Fairbanks said. “I know there is going to be like-minded people here, so what better way to spend a Sunday afternoon?”  

Fairbanks said she is worried about everything on Trump’s agenda, especially women’s rights and immigration.

“I’m worried about health care, I’m worried about everything,” Fairbanks said. “I had to take two days off from work after the election because I was so upset. So I just want to have fun … and I feel like marches and protests can get very emotional and (aerobics) is just people coming to have fun and relax.”

SF State graduate student Lea Troeh was drawn to the class looking for creative ways to resisting and“exercise her brain.”

“(The aerobics class) is not just a thing for hippies or for liberals, but is just something fun everyone can relate to and is a relatable way to express disagreement,” Troeh said.

McCarthy and Berdugo wanted the class to be a refreshing, “cathartic” and hopeful experience for those who moved along side them, red ties and all.

“One of my hopes for this event is that we can have a bit of catharsis … and much more like the feeling of getting out of the pool after a really refreshing swim and you go, ‘ah I feel great, refreshed and I am ready for the next thing,’ ” McCarthy said.

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