Australia’s popular Greek-inspired fitness craze, OPA-cize™, has arrived in Chicago.
OPA-cize™ was founded by professional dancer Kathy Skettos in 2015. After having her second child, Kathy struggled losing the weight she gained during two years of IVF treatments. Going to the gym was not proving successful. About that time, in 2009, a new Latin dance fitness program had just begun in Australia. With her love of dance, and background in Latin dance, she decided to try it. Instantly hooked, she became a dance fitness instructor in 2010. She organized the Unity Dance Fitness Team, and many large-scale dance fitness events throughout Australia. Her classes gained a strong, loyal following, gaining her much notoriety as a dance fitness instructor/promoter.
This Greek girl’s love of the traditional dances of her heritage, prompted her to seek out any organized Greek dance fitness classes. Extensive research yielded no results, so she decided to start her own, and OPA-cize™ was born.
The first OPA-cize™ class took place on March 23, 2015 with 160 students in attendance.
Just prior to that first OPA-cize™ class, Kathy’s sister Mary died unexpectedly; three blocked arteries caused heart failure. Kathy dedicated OPA-cize™ her late sister — hoping to inspire people like her who don’t exercise and are inactive, as well as those battling depression and more — to get moving and take back their health.
Kathy says her classes are “hard work disguised as fun” and “loaded with kefi”, which makes the time go quickly, and for participants to just focus on the fun. This new fitness program that’s taken Australia by storm, has arrived in the US.
Opa-cize™ in the US
OPA-cize™ made its US debut in fall 2015 in Denver, CO. Since then, classes have opened in New York, and now Chicago. Chicago native Vicky Georgacopoulos is the first OPA-cize™ instructor in Chicago.
“Vicky is a great dancer and has so much passion for Greek dance & fitness …she will be FANTASTIC for Chicago,” said Kathy.
A few years ago, Vicky was inspired watching by a Greek morning television show.
“It was a very cold winter day and I was missing Greece. The program featured a man who created a unique twist to Zumba, by combining his own colorful flair, enthusiasm and vibrant personality, with Greek music. His program Parumba, with classes in Glyfada, was attracting a lot of attention. He brought the bouzoukia in his exercise classroom, flowers and all! I literally got off the couch and started dancing. I remember thinking just then, ‘How amazing would it be if we had something like that here in America? I definitely would be more motivated to work out if it was with Greek music and dance. I mean, how many of us have danced in the bars and at the bouzoukia for hours on end (in stilettos even!), and hadn’t even realized that we’d been exercising, because we were so intoxicated by the music and kefi?”
“My jaw literally dropped and I thought, ‘Wow, it’s happening!’ On their webpage, I read how it came about. I contacted Kathy, and shared my interest and enthusiasm in the concept. I remember telling my husband that it’s a sign from God. I couldn’t sit and wait to see if someone would bring this to Chicago, so I can participate. I have to do this myself.”
It wasn’t long after that Vicky joined the team, and began planning OPA-cize™’s Chicago debut.
“Everything about it, the story behind it, the purpose, and the whole experience, speaks to me very deeply. I’m a teacher by trade; I’ve been singing and dancing Greek for as long as I can remember. Exercise had become a captivating journey for me, following the birth of my daughter. Everything about me was found in this movement. I couldn’t possibly let that pass by me.”
Vicky says her “heart and soul are forever planted in Greece”, and she’s always celebrating our beautiful culture. For more than a decade, she was a performer with the Orpheus Hellenic Dance Troupe. She called that time her “lifeline to my Grecian summers.” She’s also taught Greek dance over the years, which makes her transition to OPA-cize™ instructor a natural progression.
Opa-cize™ in Chicago
The premiere class will take place on Saturday, January 30, 2016 at the Bloomingdale Park District, from 2:00-3:00 pm.
Saturday morning classes will be held in Elmhurst, beginning February 6, at Epiphany Evangelical Lutheran Church, from 8:30-9:30 am. Thursday night classes at Grace Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn begin February 11 at 6:00 pm. Beginning February 17, Wednesday night classes will take place at First Congregational United Church of Christ in Des Plaines, from 7:30-8:30 pm. More classes and locations will be added as the program grows. Check the website for schedules.
No need to pre-book, just go to class and pay $10 for the session. Purchase a four-class pass and get the fifth class free.
Become an OPA-cize™ instructor
OPA-cize™ instructors don’t have to have a fitness background, but should be fit, and have a passion for Greek music and dance. Having an interest in fitness is key in order to inspire and guide students on their own personal fitness journey. Visit the website for online training/certification information.
Opa-cize™ is for everyone
OPA-cize™ is all about celebrating life via Greek music and dance. Vicky said that it’s not about perfection, size, age, dance level, or ethnicity. Just come out, get moving, and have fun with it.
“It’s exercise that makes you healthy and fit, disguised as fun. We promote fitness and happiness to all that participate, while celebrating our Greek culture through the music and dance. Chicago winters are long and cold. Greece is far away, and some of us don’t get to travel often. Participating in my class will sweeten the season by allowing you to travel to Greece, via music and dance. I can’t wait to meet everyone who shares this passion with me, so we can celebrate life together the OPA-cize™ way! OPA!!!!”
Follow OPA-cize in Chicago on Facebook.
Latest posts by Maria A. Karamitsos (see all)
- Author Spotlight: Greek-American Lynne Constantine - May 24, 2017
- OCCHY: An Orthodox Christian Effort to Prevent Youth Substance Use & Abuse - May 22, 2017
- First There Was Greek Wine… Now There’s Greek Wine Vinegar! - May 19, 2017