Wednesday, June 5, 2013


Recently, a friend of mine introduced me to one of the greatest video clips I have ever seen. The segment stars Florida resident Joanna Rohrback demonstrating her equine-inspired workout routine christened “Prancercising”. For five glorious minutes, the woman who could have played Mrs. Geller's sister on Friends can be seen galloping down a poorly-maintained walking trail accompanied by what I can only assume are royalty-free MIDI files she found on the Internet. Donning ankle-weights and unnecessarily tight pants, she demonstrates four distinct methods of callisthenic exercise practically guaranteed to draw pity and ridicule in equal measure. 

Unconvinced this wasn’t an elaborate hoax devised in the common areas of a retirement community; I decided to do some research. It appears that Joanna developed and even registered the concept in 1989 but never put forth much effort to market it. All that changed when she finally got around to publishing her book in December of last year. As part of the marketing strategy she decided to film a demonstration video and upload it to YouTube. A few months later the video took off and since she has racked up millions of views and even been featured on The Today Show.
Prancercise Founder Joann (and her steed
On the official Prancercise website, the technique is described as “a springy, rhythmic way of moving forward, similar to a horse’s gait and ideally induced by elation.” Both the webpage and the book cover feature Joanna moving in perfect synchronicity with a magnificent white horse that may or may not have been Photoshopped from a perfume magazine ad. Always one to cover her bases, the picture has the following disclaimer:

Any photos showing her moving along side a horse are not a suggestion that anyone should try such an act.

Also, since we live in an age where every physical regimen apparently requires an overarching spiritual theme, she emphasizes that Prancercise is not simply a way to tone one’s body. Her website declares that the program is “about self-expression. It’s about Non-violence. It’s about Conservation.” For a mere $50 per year, you can become a Prancercise member allowing you to connect with other practitioners in your area and present yourself as a Prancercise ambassador.

I have to confess that I find the video both mesmerizing and disturbing. I am fairly certain that she could generate just as much income by slowing down the video, replacing the soundtrack with Sarah Mclachlan’s “Angel”, and having a voice-over plead:

This woman, like many of Florida’s elderly residents, needs your help. For just pennies a day you can help prevent the scourge of Prancercising from claiming another innocent victim. Isn’t it enough that that these Sunshine State Seniors are already being subjected to destructive hurricanes, relentless political courtship, and infrequent visits from guilt-ridden offspring? Please, give now before the streets are overrun with galloping geezers.

Despite my good-natured chiding, I must applaud Rohrback’s emphasis on non-violence. I cannot think of a more pertinent message for someone who voluntarily chooses to gallop in urban areas while announcing that it is “better to be punching into space than in your face!” I am still somewhat unclear as to where the conservation aspect comes in but the website does endorse both the Southern Poverty Law Center and the center for International Aid for Korean Animals. The website has yet to take a stance on non-Korean animals. 

Perhaps my favorite aspect of the program is the $50 fee that gives you the ability to locate other “prancercisers” in your area code and act on behalf of the brand. If Joanna is smart she will offer a dating service as well, because any two people who are willing to shell out 50 bucks for the privilege of publicly prancing in tandem deserve each other.

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